Photo of Hitler in CVMS class prompts district action

A Carmel Valley Middle School teacher’s decision to include a photo of Adolf Hitler in her seventh grade world history classroom alongside other world leaders has sparked concerns in the SDUHSD community, prompting the district to form a committee to review the incident and develop a response to community concerns.

The poster was first reported by Roy David, a CVMS parent. David said that according to his 12-year-old son, the poster, which placed Hitler next to world leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., had been up since the beginning of the school year.

David said that when his son told his teacher she was “trivializing” the Holocaust, his teacher responded by allegedly saying that though Hitler “may have done some bad things,” he had “good leadership qualities.”

David said that when he contacted CVMS Principal Victoria Kim, she refused to remove the poster. The poster has since been taken down according to district personnel.

The CVMS teacher and Kim did not respond to requests to comment and district leadership has not yet disclosed the official nature of the history lesson or how long the poster was up. However, Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas said that the district had addressed the incident following district policies at an Oct. 13 SDUHSD board meeting, but declined to clarify more, including the employment status of the teacher on the grounds that it was a personnel issue.

At that meeting, some community members called for more action from the district, including an explanation of the lesson, more sensitivity training for staff and discipline for the teacher.

In response to community concerns, Board President Maureen Muir and Vice President Michael Allman pushed for a committee of community members to review the incident and advocated for more “curriculum transparency.”

“This is a public school district,” Allman said during the meeting. “We have the right to know what’s being taught.”

Muir did not respond to requests to comment.

The district currently has a Parent Curriculum Advisory Committee, a parent forum to review curricula, which is set to meet on Nov. 30. Allman, a member of the committee, also wants to implement a searchable curriculum database on the district website. Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Bryan Marcus said that the district is looking into this resource.

Trustees Katrina Young and Julie Bronstein voiced concerns about parental oversight of curriculum, noting that district parents can already view their child’s curriculum via classroom resources like Google Classroom. They advocated for more opportunities for community feedback, including a listening session and more staff training.

Since the Oct. 13 meeting, the district has not provided further information about a listening session or town hall, however, CVMS staff participated in a workshop on the history of anti-Semitism, led by the Anti-Defamation League on Oct. 24. The board is set to meet with Marcus, Douglas and selected community members to discuss district accountability and communication, curriculum transparency and staff training, according to Young. At the time of publication, this committee has not met.

Noa Clarestonfeld (11), who spoke about her experiences with anti-Semitism at the Oct. 13 board meeting, sees more staff training as a way to address this incident.

“Some of the best things I’ve seen is when [teachers] invite people, like a rabbi or Holocaust survivor, to come speak about their experiences,” Clarestonfeld said.

Josh McGrane (11), the president of the TPHS Jewish Community Club, agrees with Clarestonfeld on the importance of sensitivity training and said he sees this incident as a part of a larger increase in anti-Semitism.

“This is how it starts; small, isolated incidents that grow bigger,” McGrane said, noting that he would like to see a larger response from the district condemning anti-Semitism. “Right now, we’re not in a good place and we’re starting to go down a dark road that can be very scary.”

The district has not detailed any further actions beyond the committee and staff training.

While multiple board members said that they were unaware of changes to curricula at district sites following the incident at CVMS, one district teacher said that she has been forced to change her curriculum after the incident by her site administration.

“District and site personnel are choosing to Band-Aid and placate instead of showing leadership, backbone, and a cohesive plan,” the teacher wrote in a statement to the Falconer. “This reactive censorship of material is a lose-lose proposition for students. If teachers don’t present lessons that promote critical thought, which, by definition are controversial in nature, how are students supposed to understand the most important of all questions: WHY?”

This teacher reported that she was forced to remove supplementary texts from her curriculum and “stick to the books.”

“We always refine and reflect on each lesson to assure they align with California State Standards,” District Communications Coordinator Miguel Jacobs said.

The teacher’s site principal did not respond to requests to comment on changes to curriculum.

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