WHITESVILLE — A Whitesville Central School District teacher appeared to praise Adolf Hitler in the district’s latest yearbook, but district officials say the comments were “incomplete” and “mistakenly taken out of context.”
Jeff Acor, a high school social studies teacher at the small Allegany County school district, was quoted in the 2018-19 yearbook calling Hitler his favorite person in history, adding the deceased Nazi dictator “did many great things for Germany and their youth before the infamous Holocaust.”
Acor’s statement also said Hitler “was outed and faced hardships early in life which a lot of people can relate to.”
“Adolf is arguably the greatest public speaker in the history of the world. Adolf made many great strides to make Germany a world super power,” the quote concluded.
A photo of the yearbook page with Acor’s quote circulated on Twitter Thursday.
Whitesville Superintendent Laurie Sanders released a statement Thursday saying Acor’s statement was “incomplete, resulting in the description of a historical figure being mistakenly taken out of context.”
Speaking with the Olean Times Herald, Sanders declined to explain the context of Acor’s statement, nor what additional statements were left out of the yearbook.
Sanders said yearbooks were confiscated two weeks ago after district officials discovered Acor’s statement, as well as other errors, and that a new yearbook will be printed and distributed with Acor’s “complete statement.”
“The best way for me to say it is the statements were incomplete,” Sanders said, “but because there are children, students involved, and because of their privacy, I don’t really want to go into detail.”
The yearbook was produced by a student-run, after-school club, according to Sanders, who said district officials “try to give students the freedom and creative license to create and determine content.”
Sanders said the club has an adult adviser, but she declined to identify that staff member or whether that staff member will face disciplinary action.
Asked whether Acor will face disciplinary action for his statements about Hitler, Sanders said district officials “have investigated and no action has been taken.”
Acor declined comment to the Times Herald, deferring any comment to the district.
Acor was hired by the district this school year. According to a district newsletter from last fall, he is a 2005 graduate of Canisteo-Greenwood High School in Steuben County, received his bachelor’s degree in history from SUNY Brockport and received his master’s degree from Alfred University.
Acor’s statements about Hitler were featured on what appears to be a page dedicated to teacher profiles. Acor’s photo is placed at the top of the page with the label “New Guy on the Block.”
The profile introduces Acor as a new teacher, quoting him as saying he’s hopeful to “help the students at Whitesville grow into productive and knowledge citizens,” and that he has wanted to be a teacher since realizing in the first grade he “wouldn’t be able to play for the Buffalo Bills.”
The profile then states Acor was asked who his favorite person in history is, and that he replied, “Adolf Hitler, who did many great things for Germany and their youth before the infamous Holocaust.” The rest of the profile then exclusively quotes Acor discussing Hitler.
Hitler and Nazi Germany perpetrated the Holocaust, a genocide in which more than six million European Jews were murdered.
Anti-Semitic incidents are reported to be on the rise in the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League reported such incidents increased 57 percent in 2017. Last October, 11 people were shot and killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue in what was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.
Expressing sympathetic views of Hitler and Nazi Germany has become a hot-button issue in recent years in light of the rise of neo-Nazism. Such groups are characterized by not only their hate of Jews and other minorities, but also their admiration for Hitler and Nazi Germany, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a U.S. civil rights advocacy group.
Neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups caused racial tension throughout the country two years ago following the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Va. An Ohio white supremacist, who had expressed admiration for Hitler, drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors, killing a woman. He’ll be sentenced today in Virginia for murder.
Asked if she understands concerns about Acor’s comments regarding Hitler, Sanders replied, “Of course, I can understand that, which is why when we first noticed it we knew it would be misconstrued from the start because of the way it was written.”
Sanders said the new version of the yearbook with Acor’s complete statement has been sent to a printer, but she said she did not know when it would be printed and distributed.
Set in a county that U.S. Census data estimates is 95.6% white, Whitesville is the least racially diverse school district in Western New York, according to the most recent Diversity Index Rankings by Buffalo Business First, which evaluated 95 school districts in the region. They are ranked at the bottom with five other Allegany County districts: Andover, Belfast, Fillmore, Canaseraga and Bolivar-Richburg.
Ninety-nine percent, or 193 out of 195, of the Whitesville student body is white, according to New York State Education Department data from the 2017-18 school year.
The full statement from Whitesville’s superintendent is below:
Dear Families and Community Members,
It has been brought to my attention there may be some concerns and misunderstandings stemming from the collection of the yearbooks. I thought it important to provide information from the District regarding this matter.
Please know, in the production of the yearbook, we try to give students the freedom and creative license to create and determine content. That said, after the yearbooks were distributed several errors and oversights were found, including our discovery that a statement from one of our new teachers was incomplete, resulting in the description of a historical figure being mistakenly taken out of context. Accordingly, we wanted to give the Yearbook Committee an opportunity to correct the errors and oversights, and to include a more accurate and complete quote from the teacher.
We would like to thank everyone for their cooperation and understanding as we make corrections and reprint the yearbooks. We will be redistributing improved versions in the near future; and over the summer we will be putting additional procedures in place so that we can avoid this going forward.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any further questions or concerns. Otherwise, while we look forward to the 2019-20 school year, we wish everyone a happy and safe summer.