Rhode Island Senate bill mandates study of genocide in schools

The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday unanimously adopted a bill, which mandates in middle school or high school the teaching of the Holocaust and other genocides in, but not limited to, Armenia, Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda and Darfur, the Providence Journal reports.

Seven states — California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — have similar legislation. A current law in Rhode Island only encourages the awareness education.

If approved, teaching is required to begin in the 2017-18 school year. The House passed a duplicate bill in early May.

A coalition made up of members of the Armenian community, Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center have been meeting since last fall to research and draft the legislation.

The lead sponsor of the bill is Sen. Gayle L. Goldin, D-Providence, who said on Monday: “When we look at what’s going on globally, the impact of war and strife, it’s important to place them in a larger historical context, so our children understand the long-term impact of genocides and the Holocaust, so we don’t repeat that history.”

Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, North Providence, said her district was recently hit by anti-Semitism: a spray-painted swastika was found outside an Orthodox synagogue in Pawtucket.

“There is no room for that kind of hatred in our communities,” Nesselbush said before the vote, “and we will do everything, in addition to this bill, to root it out of our communities.”

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