Holocaust education bill now law in Missouri

From+left%3A+Stacey+Newman%2C+Kendall+Martinez-Wright%2C+Tyler+McClay+%28Missouri+Catholic+Conference%29%2C%0AJessica+Piper%2C+Rabbi+Chaim+Landa%2C+Noah+Kleinlehrer%2C+Rep.+Adam+Schwadron%2C+Helen+Turner%0A%28St.+Louis+Kaplan+Feldman+Holocaust+Museum%29%2C+Allysa+Banford+%28JCRC%29%2C+Amy+Lutz+%28Holocaust%0AMuseum%29%2C+Rabbi+Elizabeth+Hersh+%28Temple+Emanuel%29+and+Robert+Kleinlehrer.

From left: Stacey Newman, Kendall Martinez-Wright, Tyler McClay (Missouri Catholic Conference), Jessica Piper, Rabbi Chaim Landa, Noah Kleinlehrer, Rep. Adam Schwadron, Helen Turner (St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum), Allysa Banford (JCRC), Amy Lutz (Holocaust Museum), Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh (Temple Emanuel) and Robert Kleinlehrer.

Bill Motchan, Special For The Jewish Light

Missouri will become the 20th state to require Holocaust education in curricula for secondary schools. Governor Mike Parson on July 1 signed Senate Bill 681, which establishes a permanent Holocaust Education and Awareness Commission and Holocaust Education Week.

The newly enacted law designates the second week in April to focus on Holocaust education and age-appropriate instruction to Missouri public school students in the 6th grade and higher. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be required to create a curriculum framework of instruction to study the Holocaust. The commission will consist of 12 members, appointed by the governor.

Resources for the education component will include the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.

Initially, the instruction will be a pilot program with 25 school districts. Those districts will collaborate with the Holocaust Education and Awareness Commission to implement the program for the 2023-2024 school year. It will include a professional development plan for teachers in the participating school districts. The pilot program will expand to all Missouri school districts by the 2025-2026 school year.

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The legislation was originally proposed by state Representative Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles, as HB 2000. It was passed by the Missouri House and sent to the Senate. Sen. Brian Williams, D-St. Louis County, proposed SB 983 as bipartisan support for the legislation. When HB 2000 arrived in the Senate, it was incorporated into SB 681, a comprehensive education package, that was passed by the Senate and sent to the governor. Schwadron said the legislation will be an important addition to school curricula.

“I believe that the way we established this requirement in Missouri statute will make this state a leader not just in the educational aspect, but in the students understanding how the Holocaust happened and the lessons to be learned from it,” Schwadron said.

Holocaust education is one part of the bill, which addresses a wide range of education issues and initiatives.

In 1985, California was the first state to enact Holocaust education. The most recent four states to require Holocaust education, in 2021, were Arkansas, Wisconsin, Arizona and Massachusetts, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Additionally, in 2020, Congress adopted the Never Again Education Act, which expands the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s education programming to teachers nationwide.

A 2020 Pew Research Center study of 13,000 Americans resulted in only 45 percent correctly responding that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Of those respondents, 29 percent answered that they were not sure or had no answer to how many Jews were killed and 14 percent underestimated the number. A Claims Conference study on Holocaust knowledge also showed a lack of awareness of the Holocaust, particularly among young people. The study revealed that 49% of millennials couldn’t name a single Holocaust camp or ghetto.

“The recent Claims Conference study on the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust was a sobering reminder that we have much work to do in educating people,” Schwadron said. “The Holocaust was one of the most atrocious acts in history and if we don’t learn from it, then sadly we may see an event like it in the future.”