The woman, a long-term sub for a third-grade teacher on maternity leave, was walking the group of students outside to the cafeteria when a parent witnessed the incident from the parking lot, Franklin West Supervisory Union superintendent Ned Kirsch said.
“The children were standing with their arm out in front of them, and the teacher was modeling the position,” the witness reported to the school, according to Kirsch’s letter to parents of children directly involved. “She then raised her arm slightly and said, ‘and now we say, Heil Hitler.’”
The parent immediately informed the office, Kirsch said, and administrators swiftly took action. When interviewed, the substitute admitted to making the gesture and remark, Kirsch’s letter said.
“She was immediately relieved of her position as a long-term sub and will not be returning to our school in any capacity,” he wrote.
Seven Days first reported the incident. Kirsch told the Independent the sub had worked for the school for about eight years without issue. Three years ago, FWSU schools – which include Georgia, Fairfax and Fletcher – began contracting subs through third-party vendor Kelly Services. This sub, who Kirsch did not name, migrated to Kelly along with other regulars at that time.
Elementary school principal Steve Emery and guidance counselor Mike Malinosky visited with students today who witnessed the incident to “make sure [they] are feeling safe and secure,” Kirsch wrote.
“They all seem fine today,” Kirsch said Friday, noting several parents came in this morning. “Most of the kids – they’re in third grade, I don’t know if it really registered like it might have for an older kid.”
Still, Kirsch was disturbed by the incident, one he’s quick to classify as atypical in the tight-knit community.
“We are dedicated to ensuring a safe learning environment for our students and families,” he wrote to parents. “This incident was completely unacceptable, and I apologize.”
The regular classroom teacher returns from maternity leave on Monday, he said.
Emery did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kirsch acknowledged the severity of the incident but hoped it wouldn’t eclipse GEMS’ respected reputation.
“We have an amazing community,” he said. “This isn’t Georgia.”