Virginia school lets students opt out of Holocaust survivor speech over 'different experiences'

The Fairfax County Public Schools headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.
The Fairfax County Public Schools headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. | Screenshot: Google Maps

A middle school mom in one of Virginia's largest school districts shared a letter from her son's school telling families their children could opt out of a presentation featuring a Holocaust survivor because all students have "different experiences." 

Adele Scalia's child is in seventh grade at Cooper Middle School, part of Fairfax County Public Schools. In a Thursday X post, the mother, who is the daughter-in-law of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, shared an excerpt from a notice the email administrators reportedly sent to parents allowing students to opt out of the talk by a Holocaust survivor. 

"We understand that all students have different experiences," the notice states. "If you prefer to opt your child out from participating in this presentation, please email your child's history teacher, and they will be provided with an alternate assignment."

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

The Holocaust was a genocide of Jews that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jewish people during World War II. In her tweet, Scalia, a former attorney and stay-at-home mother, praised the idea of a Holocaust survivor speaking to her child's history class. But she questioned the wording of the email.

"If the email had said, 'We understand that some students are very sensitive and Mrs. X's stories may be disturbing and traumatizing to them…' I would have given the benefit of the doubt," Scalia stated. "But it didn't, and so I am drawing different, less charitable (but more likely) conclusions."

Fairfax County Public Schools did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

In a Friday statement to The Daily Wire, FCPS claimed that the opt-out was to help Jewish students, explaining that the middle school invites a Holocaust survivor every year.

"Each year, Cooper MS invites a Holocaust survivor to speak with students to affirm meaningful learning experiences that increase representation of all identity groups that are essential to student learning," FCPS stated. 

"Some Jewish students have previously expressed discomfort while engaging in dialogue around this visit. For that reason, school leadership makes every effort to partner with families of these students, who are 12 and 13 years old, to keep them informed," the district added. "This opt-out allows the family the opportunity to make the best informed decision on behalf of their student." 

The controversy comes as multiple schools face accusations of antisemitism following Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. Israel launched a counteroffensive after the terrorist group's surprise attack that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,200 people and the abduction of over 240 others. 

As The Washington Post reported in October, hundreds of Fairfax County high school students staged a walk-out to express support for Palestinians and to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Students from around 10 high schools planned the demonstrations, and Muslim Student Associations organized most of them, according to the outlet. 

In November, administrators at Langley High School, which is part of FCPS, suspended a student who drew swastikas and the message "Free Palestine!" on the U.S. flag. The district also reportedly suspended the student who blew the whistle on the flag. 

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights also opened an investigation into FCPS in 2022 following allegations that the district mishandled allegations of harassment against Jewish students. 

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, the pro-Israel group that filed the complaint with OCR in January 2022, praised the investigation into "FCPS for failing to respond effectively to longstanding problems of antisemitism in the district."

ZOA filed its complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that the district violated the law by failing to "respond appropriately and effectively to a hostile antisemitic environment." The complaint shares the experiences of one parent who says her children faced antisemitic harassment while attending Irving Middle School and West Springfield High School. 

According to the family, classmates would give her kids "Heil Hitler" salutes and make jokes about the Holocaust, behavior that the mother said their teacher dismissed as "foolishness." 

In another alleged incident, the parent claims that a swastika was etched into her child's desk. Despite the principal assuring the mother the issue would be taken seriously, the mom claims the swastika was never removed from her child's desk and remained there for the rest of the school year.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles