HARRISBURG, June 17, 2014 — State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams said today he is pleased that the General Assembly has finally approved a bill allowing for Holocaust and genocide studies in Pennsylvania’s public schools.
House Bill 1424, if signed into law by the governor, would encourage school districts, charter schools, intermediate units and area vocational-technical schools to offer the instruction to students in grades six through 12.
The bill was amended in the Senate on June 11 to remove the language that would have made this instruction a requirement. As it is worded today and approved by the House, teaching students about historic mayhem in places like Africa, Asia, Rwanda and Europe would be “strongly encouraged.”
“This legislation is not simply about Holocaust education, it’s about all human indignities and genocide throughout the world,” Sen. Williams said. “I heard and read about the concerns of my constituents who worried that their stories would not be told to new generations of Pennsylvania children. They can feel comforted in knowing that this new law would allow for other communities to be recognized and given the same consideration no matter where you are in the human experience.”
Sen. Williams wrote the initial proposal, Senate Bill 47, for schools to teach students about genocide and the state-sponsored extermination of specific segments of societies.
The proposal that is headed to the governor’s desk would provide training to teachers and it orders a statewide study to determine which schools are incorporating the important lessons in their curriculum. Should the Department of Education find that fewer than 90 percent of schools are teaching the subject matter after two years, the specialized instruction would become a requirement.
“My sincere thanks to Chuck Feldman and the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center for reaching out to me years ago to encourage me to propose the original bill that started this conversation in the General Assembly,” Williams said. “I am also grateful to the people who asked me to remember other ugly attempts to quiet national, ethnical, racial or religious groups.
“This new law is just the beginning of ensuring that allchildren in the commonwealth are receiving a broad education on human rights violations that have happened throughout the world and here at home.
“We now have the responsibility to monitor the progress of this new law. If we find that fewer than 90 percent of our schools are teaching our children about genocide, then we will have to be stronger about the need to make this instruction a requirement.
“The one thing we hear when there is a human atrocity is to ‘never forget.’ I believe we will eventually forget if we don’t teach each new generation of students about the Holocaust, slavery and other indignities. I am hopeful that this will become law and our schools will embrace the opportunity to always remind Pennsylvanians about the evils of abused power and corrupt societies,” the senator said.