A Perth Catholic school has apologised to parents who were offended by a Year 4 student pretending to be Adolf Hitler being awarded first place in his class at a school dress-up day.

The inner-city school sent out a letter of apology on Wednesday after parents complained about the boy's character portrayal at a book-week assembly.

The principal said a handful of parents had approached or emailed him after the event to say the costume, which included a swastika, should not have been allowed in the school.

Children had been asked to dress up as a famous character. "He (Hitler) was a fairly famous person," he said.

Two children from each class were judged as having the best costumes. The principal was one of a group of teachers who decided who would win.

He said claims that other children had been chanting "Hitler" while the student was on stage were untrue.

"It was a form of voting," he said. "I would strongly deny that the children were chanting 'Hitler', I take strong umbrage to that."

Other characters' names were also called out as part of the voting process. "Some people got upset because kids called out Hitler," he said.

The principal said he did not see anything "sinister" in the student's choice of character. "To me it's a mountain out of a molehill," he said.

Some parents had also objected to children dressing up as "nasty" characters, such as vampires or the grim reaper, he said.

He did not believe that teachers showed poor judgment by awarding the Hitler costume a place. "I just think it's a one-off thing that in retrospect we'd do differently," he said.

The letter to parents said "a small number of characters were considered by some people to be inappropriate".

"For all future dress-up activities, teachers will ensure that students and parents are aware of the sensitivities that are associated with particular characters and restrict the choice of characters to those appropriate for primary school-aged students," it said.

"Junior schoolteachers will debrief students in a very pastoral way in regards to this year's book-week dress-ups to ensure students understand the significance of their choice of character and the impact it has on other people.

"Once again the college apologises for any umbrage that may have been taken and seeks your pardon to continue to build a vibrant and loving school community."

The West Australian

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