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New York teacher in writing task asks students why Jews are evil

By Holly McKenna

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - An Albany, New York high school English teacher who asked students to imagine they were Nazis and give reasons why Jews were evil may be disciplined, a school district spokesman said on Friday.

Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard was expected to personally apologize on Friday to families of Albany High School students who were given the writing assignment, said Ron Lesko, a spokesman for the district.

Vanden Wyngaard issued an apology in the press on Thursday night after a local newspaper reporter showed school officials the assignment, which had been published on the paper's website.

Lesko confirmed that an English teacher this week gave three classes of students a persuasive writing assignment as part of a class project to demonstrate how Nazis thought and showed their loyalty to the Third Reich before World War Two.

"We know who the teacher is and we are considering disciplinary action but don't know what it is at this time," Lesko said. "This is an ongoing priority conversation."

One-third of the students refused to complete the task, which was assigned following a class review of Nazi propaganda and directed them to imagine that their teacher was a Nazi official, Lesko confirmed.

The superintendent said the assignment was meant to be an academic exercise that was part of the district's new curriculum, which stresses argumentative writing and connects English with history. However, she said the assignment was offensive.

The one-page assignment asked the students to picture themselves back in a troubled time in history leading up to World War Two.

"You need to pretend that I am a member of the government in Nazi Germany, and you are being challenged to consider that you are loyal to the Nazis by writing an essay convincing me that Jews are evil and the source of our problems," said the assignment instructions.

Students were asked for an introduction, conclusion and a list of arguments and were advised, "Please remember your life (here in Nazi Germany in the 30s) depends on it!"

Earlier this year, teachers in Georgia and New York City got into trouble because students were asked to use numbers of slave whippings to calculate math problems.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Orlofsky)

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