Rhode Island First New England State to Mandate Genocide and Holocaust Education

(ARMENIAN WEEKLY) A bill mandating genocide and Holocaust education in Rhode Island schools was unanimously passed by the Rhode Island Senate on June 5 and sent to the Rhode Island House of Representatives for approval; all bills require approval from both chambers. A companion bill also passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on May 5. Teaching of these subjects is required to begin in the 2017-18 school year.

Ani Haroian, chair of the Rhode Island Armenian National Committee (ANC), stated that this act is a funded mandate, unlike similar bills that passed without funding and became just feel-good measures. “We extend a very big thank you to Speaker Matiello, President Paiva-Weed, all of our supporters in both chambers, and the sponsors of the bills, which include our own Rep. Katherine Kazarian, Rep. Aaron Regunberg, Sen. Gayle Goldin, Sen. Josh Miller, and Sen. Hanna Gallo. Sincere gratitude is also extended to our partners, most especially Marty Cooper of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. Without his leadership and guidance, this victory would not have been possible.”

Shortly after the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a coalition was formed including representatives of the Armenian community, led by Pauline Getzoyan, co-chair of the Rhode Island Branch of the Genocide Education Project, Marty Cooper of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, and the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center. The group has been meeting since last summer to research and collectively draft the legislation.

According to the bill, the state’s Department of Education is required to provide curriculum materials and guidelines regarding Holocaust and genocide education for all middle and high school students in public schools in Rhode Island, as well as private and charter schools. Included in this area of study are the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, as well as genocides in Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, and Darfur, among others.

The Rhode Island Department of Education, which provided testimony in support of the bill, has materials currently available online regarding the Armenian Genocide, originally provided by the Genocide Education Project. In order to assist in the implementation of the legislation, a commission will be formed to determine the subject matter to be included, as well as materials.

The signing ceremony will take place in the governor’s office in the coming weeks when Governor Gina Raimondo will sign the bill into law.