RIALTO (CBSLA.com) — School district officials in Rialto have received death threats in connection to a class assignment instructing students to debate the veracity of the Holocaust, according to reports Monday.
Rialto Unified School District officials first responded last week to reports of the assignment, which asked students to compose a written debate over whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain.”
The controversial question in the assignment read: “…write an argumentative essay, based upon cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe this was an actual event in history or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth…”
The district initially defended the eighth-grade assignment – which was one part of an 18-piece essay – as an exercise to help students “evaluate the quality of evidence made by advocates or opponents of an issue.”
Rialto Police Captain Randy De Anda told KCAL 9’s Tom Wait the school district’s interim superintendent, Mohammed Z. Islam, received death threats in connection with the assignment. A district spokesperson was also threatened, De Anda said.
Officers were seen Monday standing guard outside district headquarters in response to the reported threats.
“We do not know who the suspect is at this time,” De Anda said. “However we do have some leads to follow up on.”
District officials – who say they have not received any complaints from parents about the project – are now revising the assignment, admitting it was a mistake, Wait reported.
“We are striking the sentence that claims, ‘Did the Holocaust occur?’ Absolutely the Holocaust occurred,” Rialto District spokesperson Syeda Jafri. “It was an error and we have to correct it,” Jafri added.
Jafri also said that the Education Services department was behind the assignment, and will be required to undergo sensitivity training.
The United Nations passed a 2007 resolution that condemns any denial of the Holocaust – which killed roughly 6 million Jews during World War II – and urges all member nations to “unreservedly” reject any denial of the Holocaust.