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updated: 4/13/2013 4:53 PM

Teacher who assigned Nazi letter put on leave

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  • Albany Public Schools Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard speaks about a Nazi-themed assignment given to students during a news conference on Friday.

      Albany Public Schools Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard speaks about a Nazi-themed assignment given to students during a news conference on Friday.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A high school English teacher who had students pretend to be Jew-hating Nazis in a writing assignment has been placed on leave.

The teacher at Albany High School caused a storm of criticism after having students practice the art of persuasive writing by penning a letter to a fictitious Nazi government official arguing that "Jews are evil."

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District Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard held a news conference Friday to apologize for the assignment.

The Times Union newspaper reported on Saturday that the teacher was not in class on Friday and had been placed on leave by the school district.

The district has not named the teacher, who was described as a veteran.

The writing assignment was done before a planned class reading of the memoir "Night," by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

For the assignment, the teacher asked students to research Nazi propaganda, then write a letter trying to convince an official of the Third Reich "that Jews are evil and the source of our problems."

"Review in your notebooks the definitions for logos, ethos, and pathos," the teacher's assignment said. "Choose which argument style will be most effective in making your point. Please remember, your life (here in Nazi Germany in the 30's) may depend on it!"

Wyngaard said she didn't think the assignment was malicious but "it displayed a level of insensitivity that we absolutely will not tolerate."

Many of the students were dismayed by the assignment. Some refused to write the essay.

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