House passes Genocide Education Act

The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the Genocide Education Act, filed by state Rep. Jeffrey Roy, D-Franklin. The bill, approved with a vote of 157-2, will require public schools to teach the history of genocides and create a fund to help support the new curriculum.

When signed into law, Massachusetts will become the 20th state to have adopted mandatory Holocaust and genocide education.

This bill would require each school district to file lesson plans and program descriptions related to genocide education every year with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill’s Genocide Education Trust Fund will help schools and districts develop curriculum and host training or professional development courses for educators.

“Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of human rights issues,” said Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin), noting, “with the passage of this bill, we can do it again. We can arm our students with the knowledge they will need to recognize the warning signs and feel empowered to prevent genocides in the future.

“Making genocide education a mandatory topic for teaching in our schools is a reaffirmation of the commitment of free peoples from all nations to never again permit the occurrence of another genocide, and to deter indifference to crimes against humanity and human suffering wherever they occur.”

A recent survey found 22 percent of American millennials have never heard of the Holocaust and 66 percent of youth 18-34 didn’t recognize the word Auschwitz. In Massachusetts, 35 percent of young adults didn’t know what Auschwitz was and half didn’t know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Rep. Roy first filed a genocide education bill in 2013 which called for the inclusion of genocide education in the Massachusetts history and social sciences curriculum frameworks. It was done with the help of a Medway constituent who wanted to shine a light on the Ukrainian Holodomor and other monstrous acts throughout history.

We were successful in having the curriculum frameworks changed, and the Global Education Advisory Council’s recommendation led to the inclusion of that genocide education in the History/Social Science Framework which was issued in 2018.

However, since 2018, we have seen a rising tide of hatred and bigotry. We have witnessed racist and anti-Semitic incidents across America, including in our own K-12 schools. And we saw that it was not enough to simply include genocide in the voluntary frameworks. No, we need a strong legislative solution, taking heed of the fact that national, ethnic, racial, or religious hatred can overtake any nation or society, leading to calamitous consequences.

The bill, which had more than100 cosponsors, was supported by ADL New England, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts – ANC of EM, Facing History and Ourselves, the Committee for Holodomor Genocide Awareness (https://ukrainegenocide.com), the Genocide Education Project, and over 60 coalition members.

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