For Immediate Release: 10/22/21
Contact: Peter Jasinski | email@example.com
BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday voted to pass An Act concerning genocide education, a bill filed by Senator Michael Rodrigues and co-sponsored by Senator John F. Keenan, which provides education to middle and high school students on the history of genocide and promotes teaching of human rights in public schools.
“There are many positive things to take from our history, but it’s the negative chapters we can learn so much from. By educating today’s youth on the horrors of the past, we can make sure tomorrow’s adults do not repeat them in the future,” said Senator Keenan (D-Quincy). “Whether it’s the Holocaust, our own nation’s treatment of its indigenous people, or sadly the too many genocides that have occurred throughout history, this bill would help set up an educational framework to guide students through these topics.”
The bill requires every middle school and high school in the Commonwealth to include instruction on the history of genocide. Similar legislation was advanced by the Senate in prior sessions, but this most recent iteration comes as incidences of hate and anti-Semitism are on the rise across the country, with several incidents reported in Massachusetts over the past year.
In 2020, a widely reported survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which gauged Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Generation Z populations, found that 63 percent did not know six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. The survey also found that nearly half were unfamiliar with Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz. Massachusetts does not currently require Holocaust education or other genocides as part of classroom curriculum.
“I went to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site outside Munich many years ago,” said Senator Keenan. “It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. That so many today are not aware of the atrocities that occurred at these camps, and in some cases even deny what happened at them, is deeply disturbing and points to the urgent need for this legislation.”
This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. The trust would fund instruction on the history of genocide, development of curricular materials, and professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide.
In citing the importance of the legislation, Jeremy Burton, Executive Director for the Jewish Community Relations Council, said. “Numerous incidents over the last year have shown us that this coursework is as critical and relevant now as it has ever been. We are eager to see this bill make it to the Governor’s desk as swiftly as possible.”
“This year, we have seen stark reminders of the need for genocide education as Holocaust terminology has been misused in our community on athletic fields and in the public square,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. “Massachusetts now has an opportunity to use the power of education to address hate through this essential initiative for Holocaust and genocide education in the Commonwealth.”
“At this culturally relevant time, it is critically important that we directly confront the implications of bigotry, hate and ignorance through education and conversation while maintaining a heightened awareness,” said Glenn S. Koocher, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Inc. “The passage of this bill today by the Senate is a crucial step towards ensuring students can be meaningfully taught the history of genocide and be equipped with the educational tools necessary to combat hatred and ignorance.”
The bill requires each school district to annually file a description of their lesson plan and programs related to genocide education with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The bill also establishes a competitive grant program that schools, and districts can apply to for additional programming support.
An Act concerning genocide education now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.