As Memorial Day approached, a fifth-grade student at a Tenafly school dressed as Adolph Hitler and handwrote a list of “accomplishments” in an essay that was hung in a hallway among those about historical figures, outraged parents said Monday.
Tenafly Schools Supt. Shauna DeMarco told them that she’s investigating the incident at the Ralph S. Maugham School.
"We are on top of this at multiple levels and will determine proper actions once due process has been afforded to all involved parties and a full investigation has been completed," the superintendent wrote in an email to parents.
Students selected their individual figures from history as part of a "character development” presentation to the class, the parents said.
“Imagine any other group accepting this,” said one, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Not only did a teacher review and approve the essay, the mother said, "they even hung it up in the hall.”
Writing in the first person, the student cited "accomplishments" by the mass-murdering Nazi Party tyrant.
These include “uniting a great mass of German and Austrian people behind me."
"My beli(e)f in antisemitism drove me to kill more than 6 million Jews," the essay says. “I was very popular, and many people followed me until I died."
The presentation was given in April, parents said. The essay hung in the hall for nearly a month.
It was only late last week, however, that it became public. (Story continues below.)
In a letter to parents on Friday, DeMarco wrote:
"On the eve of Memorial Day, when we honor and mourn the military personnel who have died in the performance of their duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces, I have the difficult task of addressing a serious matter involving a school project completed recently on Adolf Hitler.
"I learned about this situation on Friday and contacted the related [d]istrict administrators immediately. I have requested that all associated information related to this project be provided to me. Once I receive and review the full information, I will determine any further action that should be taken.
“The [b]oard and the [a]dministration hope that their prior actions have demonstrated to the Tenafly community that we are committed to driving a positive school climate and culture to maximize the learning opportunities and emotional growth for our students and to enable them to pursue productive and fulfilling lives."
Word of the project continued to spread among outraged parents and other residents through the weekend.
"In an insane world, where almost nothing is shocking anymore, this is literally unbelievable," one parent wrote.
"There are certain things that are not OK for any reason," another added. "Dressing up as Hitler and going to school is one of them. Hate cannot be a part of our community."
Another wrote: "This is being tone deaf and not reading the room to the infinite degree. [How] did everyone check off on this before it actually went to the presentation level?"
"In what way should Hitler’s acts be considered accomplishments?" another asked.
In a subsequent email, DeMarco pledged that a "full investigation into this matter had been launched and remains underway.
"Given that it involves both student and personnel issues, I am unable to disclose anything beyond this without potential compromise to the integrity of the investigation, the rights of those involved, and any responsive actions that may be required as a result....
"I assure you that we are on top of this at multiple levels and will determine proper actions once due process has been afforded to all involved parties and a full investigation has been completed."
Tenafly Mayor Mark Zinna issued a statement as the Daily Voice story spread on Monday."Anti-Semitism, or any other racist words or behavior have no place in Tenafly. This is not what our education system represents or the values we want to instill in our children," Zinna wrote. "No discussion of the murderer of six million Jewish people can ever be presented in a positive light. We have a responsibility to show our children right and wrong, and what we teach them now can impact their moral compass for years to come.
"The Board of Education is investigating how these events unfolded and why we are only just learning about them now, several weeks after they took place. The project itself has been removed from the walls of the school, and we will await the results of the Board’s investigation before considering further actions.
"The spreading of hateful speech is unacceptable, and we should not make the situation worse with assumptions or clouding our search for the truth with invective," the mayor added. "We, as a community, must ensure that proper judgement[sic] is exercised in this course of events, and we will steadfastly push ahead and lead by example for our children."
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