WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - A D.C. school librarian accused of leading elementary students in a reenactment of the Holocaust has a prior criminal record out of New Jersey.
According to records from the New Jersey State Department of Education, Kimberlynn Jurkowski lost her teaching license for three years after she was found guilty of theft and falsifying records in 2013.
Her childrens’ school district was paying for tutoring for her children and Jurkowski was found to have continued to charge the school system over $20,000 after the tutoring ended. She subsequently lost her school librarian job in Atlantic City.
FOX 5 also found court records of a cruelty to animals charge from 2019. Multiple media reports out of South Jersey say one of Jurkowski’s dogs died after being left outside in the cold.
On Monday, D.C. Public Schools refused to comment on whether the district knew about Jurkowski’s criminal past.
Ward 6 Councilman Charles Allen says he wrote a letter to D.C. Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee Sunday night.
"Specifically asking did this person go through a background check? Did they not discover this or have they been made aware of it?" said Allen. "I haven’t gotten a response yet, but the community and the school needs answers to those questions. I need answers to those questions."
The school district has apologized and continues to investigate after third-grade students at Watkins Elementary in Southeast say they were instructed to reenact the Holocaust during a library lesson Friday.
Students report their librarian used anti-Semitic slurs, according to a letter to parents from the principal. FOX 5 spoke to a mother of a child in the class who didn’t want to be identified.
"My husband picked up our child after school and there was a lot of sobbing and crying and distress," she said. "And momentarily, we received an email that the children had reenacted the Holocaust in their library class, including the trains, dying in the gas chamber, playing Hitler and mass graves."
She said her child was told to pretend to choke and die in a gas chamber.
In a phone call with FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts on Sunday, Jurkowski confirmed she was being accused of this, but denied the reenactment. She would not say what she talked about with students in the library and whether there was any discussion about the Holocaust. She said she wouldn’t comment further until the investigation is finished.
DCPS won’t even say how long Jurkowski has been employed by the district, but Allen says it’s been several years.
He says this has caused a lot of hurt across D.C. and that he was meeting with members of the Jewish community Monday night.
Earlier Monday, Watkins Elementary parents had a virtual meeting with school officials. A parent who was part of the meeting said they were told the school followed proper hiring procedures for Jurkowski, but it wasn’t made clear whether the district knew about the charges out of New Jersey.
DCPS provided no additional information Monday, pointing FOX 5 to their statement from Sunday:
"DC Public Schools is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all students. Last week, we received a report of a classroom of students receiving a lesson that included portraying different perspectives of the Holocaust. Students should never be tasked with acting out any atrocity, especially genocide and war. Additionally, there were allegations of a staff member using hate speech during the lesson, which is unacceptable and not tolerated at any of our schools. This was not an approved lesson plan, and we sincerely apologize to our students and families who were subjected to this incident. We have launched an investigation, and students are being supported by our DCPS Comprehensive Alternative Resolution & Equity Team."