According to the Washington Post, Holocaust scholar Frank Navarro, who teaches history at Mountain View High School in California's Silicon Valley, was placed on paid leave after parents complained about his lesson drawing parallels between president-elect Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler.
According to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX 5, Navarro insisted that he also taught his 9th grade class about both presidential candidates. Some students found the lessons biased and offensive toward Trump supporters. But Navarro thinks the comparisons are "historically factual," and that "there are valid historical comparisons to be made" between Trump and Hitler. He even says he would "absolutely" do it again, even now that he's received threats and been placed on leave.
The Mercury News reports Navarro was asked to leave in the middle of the day Thursday after a parent sent an email to the school complaining about Navarro's lesson to the class, though the exact content of the email hasn't been released to Navarro or the press.
In his lesson, according to KPIX, Navarro explained, "Hitler said he would make Germany great again, Donald Trump said he would make America great again—Hitler focused on the Jews and the Poles as foreigners and that they should be driven from Germany, Donald Trump has focused on Muslims."
But Navarro clarified his remarks were simply drawing parallels, not equating the two men. "This parent said that I had said Donald Trump was Hitler, but I would never say that," Navarro told the San Francisco Chronicle. "That's sloppy historical thinking."
Mountain View/Los Altos High School District Superintendent Jeff Harding says they'd like to see Mr. Navarro teaching again, but they're "just trying to maintain our due diligence," Harding told the Mercury News. "We have a heightened emotional environment right now with the election."
Navarro is expected to be back in the classroom this week, but a Change.org petition started last week calls on the principal to "Reverse Mr. Navarro's Administrative Leave NOW." With nearly 29,000 supporters and counting, the petition argued, "it is dangerous and disgusting that the administration has decided to punish him for drawing parallels between two similarly dangerous moments in history."
Navarro, a 65-year-old who's taught at the school for 40 years, was named a Mandel Fellow in 1997 for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and he's studied at the International Center for the Study of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
Navarro, a Mexican-American who grew up in Oakland, says he's had worried Mexican students come up and say to him, "Hey, Mr. Navarro, I might be deported." He wondered to the Mercury News: "Is it better to see bigotry and say nothing? That’s what the principal was telling me [during our conversation]. In my silence, I would be substantiating the bigotry."