April 4, 1995
Teacher's view of Holocaust stirs furor
EDUCATION: Steven Frogue is embroiled in controversy at school-and at the community college district where he is a trustee.
By DAN FROOMKIN
TUSTIN-Some students at Foothill High School say history teacher Steven Frogue told them the Holocaust never happened.
Others say Frogue called his Asian students "yellow people," made derogatory remarks about other minorities and frequently quoted historical figures who used racist terms .
Last summer, after complaints from parents, Tustin Unified School District Officials pulled the 27-year teacher out of his classroom He's spending this year in charge of detention.
But Frogue denies the allegations.
And after he filed a grievance, the Tustin school board voted to send him back to his classroom next fall. The district's teacher contract doesn't allow administrators to reassign teachers for disciplinary reasons.
Officials said they can't discuss the case because it is a confidential personnel matter.
Frogue, an ex-Marine and a Presbyterian deacon, said he has no racist feelings and would never deny that the Holocaust took place. "It would be insane to say something like that," he said.
Yet for the past two months, Frogue has been using another pulpit-his position on the board of Saddleback Community College District-to make controversial comments about the Anti- Defamation League, a Jewish organization that fights anti-Semitism and chronicles the Holocaust.
And the furor exploded last week when Frogue told the Irvine Valley College student newspaper that he believes the Institute for Historical Review has "raised questions" about the Holocaust that should perhaps "enter the debate."
The institute, based in Costa Mesa, is the nation's foremost center of holocaust denial.
Even as the world prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the institute's members say the Nazis never had a policy of systematically exterminating Jews and call the widely accepted figure of about 6 million Jewish victims a wild exaggeration.
Frogue said he has raised questions, both in class and out, about the number of Jews killed.
"Was it 6 million who died?" Frogue asked, saying he wonders "whether it's the number of people who were actually killed, or the number of people who actually died, or the number of people who were actually put in the gas chambers."
But he called it "absolutely undeniable that a calamity of the first magnitude occurred."
Frogue ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Chris Cox in the Republican Congressional primaries in 1992 and 1994, and he describes himself as a conspiracy theorist who believes the assassination of President Kennedy was not the work of a lone gunman. He has been married to a fellow teacher for 28 years and lives in Mission Viejo.
At Foothill, an 1,800-student high school in affluent, unincorporated North Tustin, several colleagues have come to Frogue's defense.
"He certainly has been accused of various things, but having taught for many years I realize that students don't always understand or hear what is being said," fellow teacher Marilyn Reardon said. "I think he's a very fine, upstanding citizen."
Some students interviewed were supportive as well.
"He's opinionated," said senior Michele Churnack, 17. "But I learned more in his class than I did in any other class."
But several students recalled comments that they found shocking and offensive.
Junior Emily Hoffman, 16, took Frogue's World Cultures class as a freshman.
"He decided that the Holocaust was made up," Hoffman recalled.
"He basically said that the Jews made it up to make people feel sorry for them, because he decided that it was impossible for so many people to have been killed in such a short amount of time," she said.
"I would raise my hand and tell him, 'That's wrong,' and he would just really get mad at me and send me out of the class."
Classmate Leah Killen, 17, also recalled Frogue's comments about the Holocaust.
"He said it never happened." She said.
Frogue said he doesn't recall any such comment. "I can't think of anything even close to that that I would have said," he said.
Hoffman's friend Stacey Marcus, taking the same course during a different class period, started taking careful notes after Hoffman told her what she had heard.
Marcus' notebook contains several statements she found anti-Semitic. From her notes on a lecture about the Ottoman Empire: "Five percent of all Jewish people are bad, but 95 percent are just as good as the rest of us."
Frogue said he might have said that, but in a general context. "It would have been in a general statement about how you take any group, and there's probably 5 percent bad."
Senior Wendy Hayashi, 18, had Frogue last year for advanced-placement U.S. history.
"He said some really racist things that really really hurt a lot of his Asian students," Hayashi said. "There was this one time, I forget what he was talking about, but he called us 'yellow people.'"
Hayashi said he also referred to Mexicans as "brown people."
"He always characterized ethnicity by color, and it really bothered me. Maybe he was trying to be funny, but it didn't work."
Senior Jeanette Anderson, 18, said Frogue "would pick specific quotes using derogatory terms" and repeat them "over and over."
One time, one of those quotes included a derogatory word for blacks.
"It was shocking. My eyes almost came out of my head," Anderson said.
Two years ago, after Hoffman told her mother what Frogue had said about the Holocaust, Diane Hoffman went to see Foothill's then-principal, Janis Jones. Diane Hoffman said Jones gave her the impression that hers wasn't the first complaint.
"She explained to me that it was the students' word against his, that he had been counseled and he had been monitored and they hadn't seen anything, and unless somebody had it on tape recorder or had absolute proof, there was nothing she could do."
Jones, now an assistant superintendent, said she can't comment on personnel matters.
Students said Frogue avoided the topic of the Holocaust last year.
"He'd say, 'I know I'm going to get in trouble if I talk about it,'" said Allison Haines, 18.
But at the end of the year, Frogue was reassigned to run "on-campus suspension"--a sort of all-day detention program.
At the community college district, Frogue raised eyebrows in January by expressing concern about links between Professor Richard Prystowsky's Understanding the Holocaust class and the Anti-Defamation League, which he called a threat to academic freedom.
Prystowsky, in turn, expressed concern over Frogue's suggestion that the Institute for Historical Review should be taken seriously in academic circles.
"What are we possibly gaining there in listening to such an absurd point of view?" he asked.
Frogue, meanwhile, said he is happy to be heading back to the classroom.
"I'm a very good history teacher," he said. "I know my subject. I love my subject. All I want to do is teach it."
April 16, 1995
Letters to the editor
History and the Holocaust
Education: Foothill teacher demeans the profession
The very fact that Frogue's classroom remarks stir up so much racial and religious controversy makes a sham of his claim, "I'm a very good history teacher. I know my subject. I love my subject. All I want to do is teach it." If he were such a "good" teacher, his remarks would not result in so much misunderstanding and disagreement among students and parents.
A "good" history teacher does not seriously rely on or even consider the views of an organization such as the "Institute for Historical Review." This organization is apparently primarily interested in promoting its hatred of Jews and the irrational twisting of history to suit this agenda. This organization's denial of the holocaust--a historical even witnessed and testified to by thousands living today--makes a mockery of its claim to be "historical."
Teachers and students face many difficulties and hazards in the public schools today. To continue to employ a teacher who, if not prejudiced, is certainly biased to the point of creating such attacks upon the racial and religious sensitivities of his students is not in keeping with the best our teachers have to offer.
Irving E. Friedman
THE IHR: We are not 'Holocaust deniers.'
Once again, the Register has inaccurately portrayed the Institute for Historical Review. The IHR cannot be "the nation's foremost center of holocaust denial" because we do not deny the Holocaust. We acknowledge that a great many Jews were killed and otherwise perished during World War II. What we dispute, among other things, is the familiar "6 million" estimate of Jewish victims, claims that the Nazis had a plan or policy to exterminate Europe's Jews, and allegations that the Nazis used gas chambers for mass murder.
Also, the IHR has no "members." What we do have is subscribers to our periodical, The Journal of Historical Review.
(Mr. Raven is associate editor of "The Journal of Historical Review”)