It was supposed to be an lesson on the rise of fascism in Europe leading into World War II. Instead the eighth-grade classroom assignment that had students drawing comics of swastikas and Hitler has parents fuming.
Parents at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee have some serious questions for school administrators.
On Monday Kelly Masterton’s 13-year-old son Michael was given an assignment entitled “if you give Hitler a country” modeled after the popular children’s book “if you give a mouse a cookie” about an insatiable mouse.
“I was surprised that nobody else had brought it up," Masterton said. "But then again - it was an in-class assignment. So, it could be the parents would never have seen it."
The instructions from the language arts and social studies teachers were to create a comic strip “for little kids” that “exemplifies Europe's appeasement towards Hitler.”
“I was a little skeptical at first but then when I saw the handout I was appalled," Masterton said. "And when were able to look up this imagery I was even more appalled.”
Masterton posted the classroom handout on Facebook in which a character from “my little pony” is shown dressed in a Nazi uniform and a Hitler mustache. As well as the comic her son Michael produced depicting “sponge-bob square pants” as a Nazi.
“I thought it was horrible," Masterton said.
According to Michael, at least one of his classmates--who is Jewish--asked for an alternate assignment.
“All of us were shocked and then some kids were being a bit immature and trying to make this assignment a little bit funny and it’s disgusting," Michael said.
In a statement, the school board president, Carla Little, apologized and said Woodland is a valued as a diverse community. She said the objective of the assignment was to understand the policy of appeasement and the Munich Agreement as events leading up to World War II.
"However, the 'fun' and 'cartoonish' elements of the activity students were asked to complete did not fully represent the intent of the teachers or Board Police 6:80 Teaching of Controversial Issues," the statement reads. "The intent of the student activity was to help students understand the complex issues leading up to World War II, not to minimize the atrocities of Nazi Germany."
Kelly Masterton says the eighth grade classroom assignment was inappropriate and parents she’s spoken to say they are waiting for answers from the district.
“I want to know where it came from and know that they’re not going to do that again," she said. "That they’re not going to go ahead and give more assignments about terrible assignments and make light of it."
School officials say they are still determining whether the assignment violated district policy. The teachers were removed from the class as the district investigates.