December 18, 2009 - 10:00 pm
A Northwest Career and Technical Academy teacher is accused of denying the Holocaust happened and telling students that the Nazis lacked the technology to kill so many Jews, one senior said.
Jewish students said the teacher’s comments have circulated widely and have created a poisonous atmosphere at the public school, which has led other students to make anti-Semitic jokes and threats against them.
One such threat is being investigated by Clark County School District police as a possible hate crime, district officials and involved students and parents confirmed on Thursday.
The investigation involves a text message sent to multiple students that said: "Men are supposed to act like men and not be pansy asses … only girls are allowed to be that way you slut(t)y Jews … Please feel free to (forward message) or I will slit your throats personally … And yes I’m related to Hitler."
Lori Sublette, the teacher accused of denying the Holocaust, has not apologized to students for her comments, said 17-year-old Katie Piranio, a student in Sublette’s "advocacy class," a weekly course intended to prepare teens for life after high school.
When the Review-Journal reached Sublette on Thursday and asked if she had denied the Holocaust happened, the teacher did not answer the question.
"I would have to talk to my principal (Frank Pesce)," Sublette said. "I’m not in the position to respond to anything like this."
District spokesman Michael Rodriguez said disciplinary action is being taken against the teacher but would not provide details, saying the issue is a "personnel matter."
Outraged parents are criticizing both school and district officials for what they view as a "cowardly" and blasé response to the incident at the campus on West Tropical Parkway, near Durango Drive.
Piranio said the teacher originally made the comments on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Students were discussing ways to decorate the classroom door for a holiday contest.
The discussion went off on a tangent when a student brought up the Holocaust. The World War II genocide is estimated to have killed more than 6 million European Jews and millions of Gypsies, homosexuals and other religious and ethnic minorities.
Students said Sublette disputed much of what is known about the Holocaust.
"It was ridiculous what she was saying," Piranio said. "I was afraid to challenge her, because she was so into what she was saying."
Piranio said Sublette told students that history textbooks have inaccurate information and Holocaust photographs were doctored or distorted. She also said Sublette said in class that some Holocaust photographs were actually taken during an earlier time period in Russia.
After Piranio’s father complained to school officials, Sublette called him to apologize, but only for giving her "opinion" in class, Katie Piranio said.
As a matter of district policy, teachers are not supposed to speak about subjects outside their expertise. Sublette is a full-time gym teacher with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Washington and a master’s degree from Arizona’s Grand Canyon University, according to the school’s Web site.
Sublette was in her classroom when the Review-Journal called her Thursday. Students said she is still teaching.
While one parent said he did not think the school was trying to "pooh-pooh" the issue, others were outraged.
"Let’s wake up," said Ilana Levinsky, whose daughter is in Sublette’s gym class. "I don’t think she needs to be teaching.
"The last thing we need is another (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad teaching in the Clark County school system," said Levinsky, referring to the Iranian president who disputes the Holocaust happened.
Phyllis Friedman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of Nevada, said Las Vegas is home to many Holocaust survivors and their children. Friedman said the city has a progressive reputation in educating the public about the genocide.
Friedman was unaware of the allegations against the Northwest Career and Technical Academy teacher until Thursday.
"I hope to all get-out it’s not true," she said. "Unfortunately, Holocaust deniers are out there, much to my amazement."
Contact reporter James Haug at email@example.com or 702-374-7917.