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Carmel Valley principal apologizes for Hitler portrait in classroom

7th grader told his dad about the picture of Hitler in history class.

SAN DIEGO — The principal of Carmel Valley Middle School is apologizing to the community after a portrait of Adolph Hitler was posted on the wall of a 7th grade classroom.

A 12-year-old student, who is Jewish, saw the photo and told his father.

“We're sitting at the dinner table and he says to me, ‘Hey dad, my teacher has a picture of Hitler on the wall,’” said Dr. Roy David, the father of the 12-year-old. 

At first, Dr. David didn’t believe what his son was saying about his history class at Carmel Valley Middle School. So, he asked his son to send him a photo.

“And there's Adolf Hitler, a big, portrait-size picture of Hitler. And right next to Hitler is Gandhi and Martin Luther King and JFK. And each one of these people has some kind of inspirational quote written underneath them,” said Dr. David. 

Dr. David said he emailed the teacher asking for an explanation and that the photo be taken down, but he received no response.

“My son went back the next day and basically asked her why she had this picture of Hitler on the wall and he actually told her, you know, you're trivializing the holocaust. She tells my son, well, Hitler may have done some bad things but he had leadership qualities,” said Dr. David.

The boy told his father that the Hitler portrait had been on the wall since the beginning of the school year. 

And, according to Dr. David, it was not part of a history lesson on World War II.

“My grandparents’ entire families were murdered in the Holocaust. They were from Poland, originally, and my grandmother was the sole survivor from our town.  Every other man, woman, and child was rounded up and executed,” said David.

The Hitler portrait has since been removed after an uproar on social media.

Credit: Vicki Kim

On Monday night, the school principal, Vicki Kim, sent an email to parents saying teachers never intend to hurt or offend anybody.

"We have recently experienced one of those times that had a hurtful impact, particularly to our Jewish community, and to others, and for this we are sorry,” Kim’s email stated.

Credit: Roy David

The Anti-defamation League (ADL San Diego) also responded with the following statement:

"On September 27, 2022, ADL San Diego received an online incident report from a parent alleging that a poster of Adolph Hitler was featured among the images of Gandhi, President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill and other historical figures in their child’s 7th grade classroom at Carmel Valley Middle School as part of a world history lesson on historical leaders.

According to the parent, their 12-year-old child communicated to their teacher that it was inappropriate to feature Hitler’s likeness alongside positive role models. The teacher allegedly told the student that, “Hitler may have done some bad things, but he also had strong leadership qualities.”

The student’s parent contacted the school principal and then filed an online incident report to ADL. It is our understanding that the parent also requested their child be moved to another history class.

The school reviewed the situation and asked the teacher to remove the poster of Hitler.

To be clear, images of Adolf Hitler in the classroom without proper context can be deeply offensive and hurtful to members of the Jewish community. Particularly for younger students who are impressionable. Based on the available information, ADL is troubled by the inclusion of Hitler among inspirational historical leaders as part of this world history lesson. As soon as ADL became aware of the situation, we contacted the school principal (who had just removed the poster), expressed our concerns, ensured the offending poster had been removed, and offered our expertise and resources to the teacher and school to resolve this situation and avoid such incidents in the future.

Carmel Valley Middle School is an ADL-registered No Place for Hate® school, which means it is committed to fighting hatred and bigotry. Regardless of the teacher’s intent, the impact was felt in the classroom and beyond. We will continue to work closely with Carmel Valley Middle School to reduce, address and remedy any incidents of hate and bigotry and we are pleased with the administrations cooperation and willingness to learn from this. ADL Education staff will meet with the teacher for future discussion and education to avoid similar situations from happening again."

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