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Sen. Eric Lesser votes to advance Genocide Education Bill

On Oct. 21, Sen. Eric P. Lesser joined colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass An Act concerning genocide education (S.2557) to provide education to middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

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. 

“This July, a rabbi was stabbed right outside the Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton. In December 2020, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church was set on fire. In April 2020, a man tried to set off a firebomb at an assisted living facility in Longmeadow. As of August 2021, our country has seen over 9,000 anti-Asian incidents reported since the start of the pandemic,” stated Senator Lesser. “As much as we’d like to think we’ve progressed as a society, hate, racism, and anti-Semitism are on the rise and our sacred spaces continue to be attacked across our Commonwealth. In response to these growing trends of hate, we passed the Genocide Education Act, presented by Senator Michael Rodrigues, that would require our middle school and high schools to teach about the history of genocide. We must teach future generations that hate, and intolerance will never be okay.”

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 the classroom curriculum. 

This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. Funds in this trust would 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 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. 

Main Photo: Sen. Eric Lesser at JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow last spring,  announcing $27,280 in nonprofit security grant funding,  after an attempted antisemitic arson at JGS Lifecare’s Ruth’s House facility.

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