The D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) librarian who allegedly made third graders reenact graphic scenes from the Holocaust – including selecting a Jewish student to play Adolf Hitler – was previously convicted of fraud and animal cruelty in New Jersey.
The Washington Post reported that Watkins Elementary School librarian Kimberlynn Jurkowski was the one who allegedly dropped the scheduled lesson plan to have the third graders reenact the Holocaust. Children were reportedly made to pretend to shoot victims, dig mass graves, and die in gas chambers.
“Jurkowski forfeited a job as a school librarian in Hamilton Township, N.J., after a jury convicted her of fraud in 2013. Prosecutors said the city paid for Jurkowski to provide tutoring for her children but that she continued billing the district for nearly $24,000 for months after the tutoring had ended,” the Post reported. “She was also arraigned on an animal cruelty charge in 2019 after she left one of her Rottweilers outdoors in freezing winter temperatures. The dog died. Police had responded to several complaints of animal cruelty at the home.”
DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said at a Monday press conference that the district does “a thorough background check on all of our employees when they are hired” and that it would be “doing an investigation into the hiring process specifically to the staff member.”
As The Daily Wire previously reported, Jurkowski was placed on leave Friday after the incident was reported. School Principal MScott Berkowitz wrote an email to parents regarding the incident but did not name Jurkowski. The student who was cast as Hitler is reportedly Jewish, according to the student’s parents.
The students were in the library on Friday for class and were supposed to be presenting a project to their classmates ahead of the winter break, but Jurkowski changed the lesson to the reenactment instead. One parent told the Post that Jurkowski made antisemitic comments during the reenactment, including telling children who asked why the Germans perpetrated the Holocaust that “the Jews ruined Christmas.” This parent also said Jurkowski told children not to tell anyone about the reenactment, but they told their homeroom teacher.
This parent also told the Post that her son was told to pretend to be on a train heading for a concentration camp and then pretend to die in a gas chamber.
One parent told Fox 5 DC that the children are “traumatized” by the incident.
“One parent said that their child was worried the teacher in question was hiding at their house. Children are having nightmares and generally having a very hard time,” the parent told the outlet.
“I want to acknowledge the gravity of this poor instructional decision, as students should never be asked to act out or portray any atrocity, especially genocide, war, or murder,” principal Berkowitz wrote in his email to parents.
DCPS released a statement regarding the incident:
DC Public Schools is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all students. Last week, we received a report of a classroom of students receiving a lesson that included portraying different perspectives of the Holocaust. Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war. Additionally, there were allegations of a staff member using hate speech during the lesson, which is unacceptable and not tolerated at any of our schools. This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident. We have launched an investigation, and students are being supported by our DCPS Comprehensive Alternative Resolution & Equity Team.
A librarian at the school, however, says no Holocaust re-enactment or hate speech occurred that day.
“I think somebody’s misquoting what happened in the library that day,” she told Fox 5.
The librarian would not answer the outlet’s questions about whether any discussion about the Holocaust occurred that day.
“I’m going to wait for the the [sic] investigation. I was shocked to see it myself,” she said, referring to Berkowitz’s letter.