(JTA) — Jews in the Texas school district where an administrator told teachers that a new state law meant they should include “opposing” views of the Holocaust in their classrooms are speaking out against her statement and the law that prompted it.
“The facts are that there are not two sides to the Holocaust,” Jake Berman, an alum of the district who said he had experienced antisemitic bullying while enrolled, said in testimony at a school board meeting Monday that was reported on by NBC News and has since been shared widely on social media. “The Nazis systematically killed millions of people.”
He added, “There are not two sides to slavery. White Europeans enslaved Black Africans in this country until June 19, 1865, a moment we’re barely 150 years removed from. There are not two sides to Jim Crow. There are not two sides to racism and that same oppression continues today.”
Last week, the administrator was recorded telling teachers in the Carroll Independent School District that, in order to comply with a law requiring teaching “diverse and contending perspectives” on controversial issues, they would have to offer “opposing” and “other perspectives” on the Holocaust.
The administrator signaled that she was uncomfortable while she gave that guidance, and teachers on the recording protested. Berman said her remarks were “assuredly a misstep.”
The law in question was motivated by growing Republican opposition to critical race theory, a concept in legal studies that says racism is baked into the country’s laws and institutions. Opponents of the theory — including some Jewish activists — claim that it is being taught broadly in schools with no room for opposing perspectives.
Last week, the superintendent of the school district apologized for the administrator’s remarks, saying that “the comments made were in no way to convey that the Holocaust was anything less than a terrible event in history. Additionally, we recognize there are not two sides of the Holocaust.” He added that the state law “does not require an opposing viewpoint on historical facts.”
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Republican who wrote a companion bill to the law in question, denied that his legislation requires teaching opposing views on matters of “good and evil.” Hughes’ bill expands the law’s restrictions, and is moving through the legislative process now.
Rob Forst, a parent in the district who identified himself at the school board meeting as a descendant of Holocaust survivors, called the administrator’s comments “completely unacceptable,” according to NBC News.
Berman said he attended schools in the district through eighth grade, when a principal advised him to leave to escape the antisemitic bullying he was enduring. He said that the slurs directed at him drove him to contemplate suicide and led to depression in his adult life.
“I was subject to a rash of bullying, almost all of which was antisemitic in nature,” he said. “I received everything from jokes about my nose to gas chambers, all while studying for my bar mitzvah from a Holocaust survivor as my primary tutor.”
“The message you and the state are sending to your teachers opens the door for more of this type of behavior in your students,” he said. “If you don’t think that these same attacks are happening in your schools today with regard to someone’s skin color, gender or religion, you are sorely mistaken.”