Genocide Education Act unanimously passes Assembly Committee

On Wednesday, April 9, the California State Assembly Education Committee unanimously passed Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian’s bill, AB 1915, requiring the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the list of studied subject areas for the adopted courses of study in Social Science for 7th to 12th grades, reported the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA WR). The bill also recommends for the Department of Education to include the atrocities of 1915 into publications and curriculum materials. AB 1915 will now move on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.

“In my ongoing efforts to bring recognition to the Armenian Genocide, I want to ensure that our students are having an enhanced educational experience, to learn more about what happened in the past,” said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian when introducing the bill. “It is imperative that the Armenian Genocide be taught because it has set the stage for subsequent genocides in the twenty first century,” added Nazarian.

Principal co-author of AB 1915 Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, ANCA Western Region Education Committee Chair Alice Petrossian and ANCA Western Region Education Committee Executive Member and writer Kay Maroudian, as well as Assembly Education Committee members, Chair Joan Buchanan and Assemblymember Rocky J. Chavez all spoke in support of AB 1915 during the committee hearing.

One speaker of Turkish descent stood in opposition of the bill prior to the vote, claiming that it would teach hate and was one sided as he continued on to deny the facts surrounding the Armenian Genocide. During her statement in support of the bill, Education Committee Chair Joan Buchanan responded to the opposition by noting “I was a school board member for 18 years and I believe that the experts who would participate in the quality instruction commission will get it right. So I’m not worried that they’re going to betray history in a way that’s not accurate. History is about facts and I think that that’s exactly what will happen.”

“The Armenian Genocide has had an impact on California and U.S. history and that story must be told. Even though the Armenian Genocide is included in the curriculum frameworks and the content standards, it is still not being taught,” said ANCA Western Region Education Committee Chairwoman Alice Petrossian. “As an educator for the past 43 years in California’s public school system I have learned that if it isn’t mandated it is not taught. My last and most important point is that failure to teach the Genocide is a continued commitment to having such inhumane actions repeated,” added Petrossian.

In the weeks leading up to State Assembly consideration of the measure, the ANCA Western Region worked closely with legislators to ensure they learned of the broad, enthusiastic support for the measure, especially during the organization’s 2014 Advocacy Day when over 350 activists from California including a group of students from San Marino High School who have taken up the Genocide Education as their senior project, met with over 70 California legislators.

Earlier this year, the State Assembly Education and Appropriations Committees unanimously adopted AB 659, another bill introduced by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. The bill, which is on its way to the California State Senate, encourages schools to use oral histories when teaching about the Armenian Genocide. AB 659 set the stage for the presentation of AB1915.

“I’d just like to say that I think these atrocities happen because people aren’t aware and I’d like to thank the assembly member for bringing the bill forward. What this bill does is it ensures that the Armenian Genocide is included along with Cambodia and that they are all raised to that level,” said Buchanan.

Once adopted by the Appropriation Committee, the State Senate and signed into law by the Governor, AB 1915 would codify the Armenian Genocide into the curriculum of 7th to 12th grade Social Science and History classes. It would also recommend publication about the Armenian Genocide and other genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur in instructional materials provided to instructors about crimes against humanity.

Currently, California is one of 11 states, including Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia, which have the Armenian Genocide included in their curriculum. The California Model Curriculum developed by the Department of Education, includes the Armenian Genocide as a recommended topic to teach. However, schools aren’t required to follow this Model Curriculum.

Legislators who voted in support of the bill included the following Assembly Education Committee Members: Assemblymembers Buchanan, Olsen, Chavez, Gonzales, Weber and Williams. Co-sponsors of AB 1915 include Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano (D), Ian C. Calderon (D), Steve Fox (D), Isadore Hall (D), Chris R. Holden (D), Brian Nestande (R), Jim Patterson (R), and Scott Wilk (R).

“The ANCA WR applauds Assemblymembers Nazarian and Achadjian for their leadership and for spearheading this important education legislation, as the well the Education Committee Chair and members for taking this critical first step to ensure that future generations learn about the atrocities that took place during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. We look forward to continuing our work alongside our elected officials and our grassroots to see this legislation to fruition,” stated Elen Asatryan, Executive Director of the ANCA-WR.

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