On July 30, the Massachusetts Senate with support from Senator Jason Lewis passed An Act concerning genocide education to improve the education of middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.
“It is shocking how many young people today have never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Holocaust, or other heinous genocides perpetrated in the past,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “This important legislation will ensure that more students understand the history of genocide so that it never happens again. I’m grateful to Senator Michael Rodrigues for championing this legislation and to all of the educators and advocates who have worked to see this bill passed.”
According to a 2018 article in the New York Times, 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. This legislation would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. The Trust Fund would ensure the development of appropriate curricular materials, as well as provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide.
“The need for Holocaust and genocide education in K-12 schools could not be more urgent. Massachusetts now has an opportunity to use the power of education to address hate through this essential initiative,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director.
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 to which schools and districts can apply for additional programming support.
The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.