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DC teacher who re-enacted Holocaust lost NJ teacher license in 2015

Watkins Elementary School in Washington D.C. (7News photo)
Watkins Elementary School in Washington D.C. (7News photo)
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7News has uncovered new information about that disturbing Holocaust re-enactment at an elementary school in the District. Investigative Reporter Scott Taylor is asking DC Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee why DCPS didn’t discover a teacher’s troubled past through a simple Google search.

DC Public School teacher Kimberlynn Jurkowski allegedly had 8- and 9-year-old third graders at Watkins Elementary School re-enact the Holocaust last Friday. Reports said one student played the role of Adolf Hitler and pretended to commit suicide.

“No, I do not think it’s a proper setting for 8 and 9-year-olds to re-enact the Holocaust,” said Willie Marks, a parent dropping off his child at school.

Other students re-enacted deaths in gas chambers and pretended to shoot classmates.

RELATED | 'Portray Hitler?' DC third-graders instructed to reenact atrocities from the Holocaust

“Teachers should be a little more sensitive on what content they are putting in front of your students and remember we are a really diverse community and think about what group of students are going to be impacted by it,” added one parent who asked not to be identified.

The I-Team did some digging. Jurkowski is listed as a Specials Library Media Specialist on the school’s website. She lost her teaching license in New Jersey in 2015 when she informed the New Jersey Department of Education she was found guilty of theft by deception and falsifying or tampering with records in October 2013 in an Atlantic County courtroom.

Court officials tell 7News after the verdict she completed a pretrial intervention program and had the case dismissed in 2014.

Parents received a letter on Friday. The school’s principal wrote students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war. There were also allegations a staff member used hate speech during the lesson.

SEE ALSO | Did DCPS miss red flags on teacher being investigated for re-enacting the Holocaust?

The Anti-Defamation League says this isn’t the way to teach students about the Holocaust.

“Re-enactment. Simulation activities of historical atrocities are extremely upsetting. They are traumatizing. They are not appropriate at any age. Especially at a very young age," said Michelle Magner, the Education Director at the Anti-Defamation League in Washington, D.C.

READ MORE | Two more DC schools close due to COVID-19 outbreaks, bringing total to 11

Dr. Ferebee declined to speak to the i-team on camera.

7News wanted to know why didn’t DCPS know about Jurkowski's court record and the loss of her teacher’s license in New Jersey?

We found it in a simple Google search.

Did she have a lesson plan or was required to hand one in?

The Superintendent’s PR team didn’t answer any of those questions but did say in an email:

“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.”

We did reach out to Jurkowski, but so far she hasn’t returned phone calls or texts.

“I do think there was probably a better way to have been taken place. Maybe not so detrimental to such young kids,” adds Patrice Arrington who has a child attending Watkins Elementary.

Jurkowski is no longer in the building at Watkins. She has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the DCPS investigation.

Watkins Principal MScott Berkowitz's letter to parents and families:

Learn more about the Holocaust:

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Montreal Holocaust Museum

Anne Frank House

The Wiener Holocaust Library

Simon Wiesenthal Center

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Auschwitz Memorial and Museum

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