School Notes: Gaithersburg Official Asks MCPS to Take Stock of Holocaust Curriculum

School Notes: Gaithersburg Official Asks MCPS to Take Stock of Holocaust Curriculum

Plus: Washington Post honors local teacher; Blair students mobilize around climate change awareness

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A Gaithersburg Council member alarmed by a “striking ignorance of the facts” about the Holocaust is pressing Montgomery County Public Schools to evaluate its curriculum on the Nazi atrocities.

Council Member Ryan Spiegel said recent examples of anti-Semitism and inaccurate statements by high-ranking public officials shed light on the need for increased awareness of the Holocaust. This apparent lack of knowledge about the genocide is personally jarring for Spiegel, whose extended family was affected, he wrote in a letter to Superintendent Jack Smith.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, it is critical that our children learn the truth about what happened during that horrific and defining 20th century event and that they come to appreciate the context and meaning of the Holocaust, its relationship to other events … and the application of its lessons to our lives today and in the future,” he wrote.

Spiegel, who also heads the Montgomery County chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, asked Smith for a detailed briefing on the “scope and status” of Holocaust curriculum in MCPS.

County leaders earlier this year gathered to decry a string of threats and anti-Semitic graffiti that had roiled the community. In February, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville – along with dozens of other Jewish schools and community centers nationwide – received a bomb threat. Swastikas have appeared in bathrooms and sidewalks at local schools, and a Jewish student at Winston Churchill High School in March received an anti-Semitic text message while sitting in a class on the Holocaust.

Earlier this week, Jewish leaders condemned White House press secretary Sean Spicer for making incorrect statements about the Holocaust and comparing Hitler with the current Syrian leader.

Spiegel noted that his letter was coming just days before April 24, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“It is a fitting time to be asking, in light of current events, where the educational institutions in our communities stand on the matter of Holocaust education,” he wrote.

Rockville teacher picked as Post’s teacher of the year

A Rockville High School teacher has been named the Washington Post “Teacher of the Year,” the newspaper announced this week.

Sean Pang, 29, has been teaching 9th-grade English and creative writing at the school since 2011, according to the article. In addition, he runs an academic intervention course for at-risk students, sponsors student clubs, has coached varsity volleyball and has even participated in a cafeteria flashmob.

“I tell kids I practically live in the school,” he told the Post.

Blair students to host summit on climate change

Hundreds of Montgomery Blair High School students will participate in an April 18 field trip to downtown Silver Spring to kick off their day-long “climate summit.”

The event organized by a teacher and student aims to “raise awareness of the dire threat climate change poses,” according to a press release. The students will leave their Silver Spring high school at about 8 a.m. and head to the historic AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center, where they’ll watch a documentary and listen to an expert panel featuring Maryland Del. Kumar Barve (D-Rockville), a representative from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and others.

In the early afternoon, the students will walk to Veteran’s Plaza in Silver Spring to lead breakout groups that will discuss social media campaigns, lobbying efforts and conservation.

“This summit shows that our generation will not sit around and wait for everyone to get on the same page,” student organizer Emma Morganstein said in a press release.

Editor's note: The brief about the Montgomery Blair High School was corrected to state that students are participating in a field trip and not a walk-out.

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