Hitler comic assignment could lead to policy changes at Woodland District 50
Woodland Elementary District 50 officials at a special board meeting Thursday night said they plan to discuss and improve their policies on teaching controversial subjects a week after one eighth-grade teacher assigned a lesson titled "If You Give Hitler A Country."
The assignment required students to create a comic strip explaining Europe's policy of appeasement to the Nazis in the lead up to World War II.
Board President Carla Little said after the district's investigation she believes the assignment was good but was undermined by the images that accompanied it.
"I think it is a great assignment, but there were the graphics of it which took away from the meaning," Little said. "(The teacher) was not promoting hate or a political agenda. They were teaching kids about a concept."
The handout for the assignment featured the image of a character from "My Little Pony" saluting in a Nazi uniform.
Board Vice President Joyce Mason said that while some unintentional bad judgment was used, it has led to some great conversations about what they want their students to accomplish with analytical thinking and tackling tough issues.
The school district apologized to those who were concerned by the assignment in a letter sent to district parents last Thursday. The letter states the fun and cartoonish elements of the assignment did not fully represent the intent of the teachers or school board policy.
One district patent, Renea Amen, said she was disappointed by the district's letter, calling it generic and called for better diversity training for teachers.
"I'm not here to place blame," Amen said. "If we want to continue to be a leading district we need better teacher training."
Amen was the only parent to speak at the meeting about the assignment.
Sharon Anday, an eighth-grade science teacher in the district, spoke during public comment to thank the district for their diligence in investigating the origin and root cause of the issue.
"If we continue to let this incident to define or school, upset our community, parents and students, that would be unfortunate," Anday said.
Anday criticized the news media for reporting untruths about the assignment but didn't provide examples.
After the meeting Little said the district couldn't share everything the investigation had turned up because of confidentiality issues. She did share that one widely reported detail, that there was a Jewish student in the class who was offended by the assignment and asked for a different topic, was not true.
Superintendent Joy Swoboda said the district will continue the discussion on how to teach controversial topics at future board meetings. She said one idea that has come out of the discussions is reinstituting a district cultural awareness and sensitivity committee.
The board will next meet at 7 p.m. Dec. 19.