Senate Advances Genocide Education Bill

Establishes the Genocide Education Trust Fund to educate students on the history of genocide

BOSTON (10/21/2021) – On Thursday October 21, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate in passing An Act concerning genocide education to require every middle school and high school in the Commonwealth to include instruction on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues. 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.

“The limited knowledge and understanding that many young people have of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide is alarming,” said Senator Friedman, Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Education and learning about the history of genocide – and the painful consequences of ignorance, bigotry and intolerance – is a critical tool in dismantling hate in our Commonwealth. I thank Senator President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, Senator Lewis, and my Senate colleagues for taking this important step toward equipping the next generation with the knowledge and the resources they need to recognize and dispel hate and ignorance in our communities.”

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.

This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to be used for the instruction of middle and high school students on the history of genocide and ensure the development of curricular materials, as well as to provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide. The billwould also require 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). Schools and districts would have the opportunity to apply for additional programming support through a new competitive grant program.

“We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and their legislative colleagues for taking this critical step toward ensuring that Massachusetts public school students receive Holocaust and genocide education prior to high school graduation,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. “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. 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.”

An Act concerning genocide education now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.