SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) joined legislative leaders and partnering organizations to urge support for new legislation to strengthen the implementation of education on genocide, including the Holocaust, and provide tools and resources to schools and teachers to confront complex issues of bias, bigotry, racism, and the rise in incidents of hate.
Senate Bill (SB) 693, the Never Again Education Act, sponsored by State Superintendent Thurmond and authored by Senator Stern, which successfully advanced from the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, establishes the Governor’s Council on Genocide and Holocaust Education. It would assemble leading experts on teaching about crimes against humanity, genocide, and the Holocaust in particular to provide resources offering new teaching methods and enhanced resources for teachers and students to counter a recent rise in acts of hate, bigotry, and anti-Semitism across our country and embrace the importance of diversity, human rights, and the roles and responsibilities of citizens in democratic societies to combat misinformation, indifference, and discrimination.
This effort aligns with the “Education to End Hate” initiative that State Superintendent Thurmond launched in September 2020, in which the California Department of Education (CDE) has utilized a series of strategies—including educator training grants, partnerships with community leaders, and virtual classroom sessions—that leverage the power of education to create a more just society. In the announcement yesterday, State Superintendent Thurmond underscored that as part of the ongoing efforts, the CDE is prepared to work with any school district in real time, along with partners such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, to respond to and provide the resources and support schools need when there are incidents of anti-Semitism and acts of hate. All questions regarding the Education to End Hate Initiative can be directed to [email protected].
Speaking yesterday at the virtual press conference, State Superintendent Thurmond stated, “Our students are victims of a broken society; every day we encounter more heartbreaking examples of anti-Semitism, bullying, and violence against Asian Americans, Islamophobia, LGBTQ discrimination, and racism and actions of hate against people of color. Education has the power to help us grow, understand, and find a pathway to healing. SB 693 will build the necessary infrastructure to provide the trainings to hold the courageous conversations. It is not enough for us to say ‘never forget’ genocide or the experience of the Holocaust, but what we need to realize is that there is an interconnectivity that we all experience and that, with the right information and tools, we can and we must address hate wherever and whenever it occurs.”
During Monday’s virtual press conference, Senator Stern shared, “Holocaust genocide education isn’t just a lesson in history class or an issue only affecting people who are Jewish; it should be a bulwark against rising anti-Semitism for all California students. Hate has a history. Building action-oriented Holocaust and genocide education will give teachers and students the tools to uproot hate when it rears its head in schools across California, so it doesn’t fester and erupt as violence on our streets.”
Several other participants in the press conference shared their personal stories and encouraged support for SB 693.
“Education can be an exceptionally powerful antidote to hate,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), Assembly Majority Whip and Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. “The Jewish Caucus is deeply concerned that in too many places, and especially for too many young people, the Holocaust is fading from view. We are proud to support SB 693 and applaud Senator Stern for his leadership on this important issue.”
Senator Scott Weiner stated, “My childhood and recent experiences as a victim of anti-Semitism and homophobia have repeatedly reminded me that ignorance and bigotry are alive and well. SB 693 will help educate the next generation of Californians about what happens with bigotry goes unchecked, which is one of the best ways to prevent future acts of hatred against vulnerable communities.”
Dr. Anita Friedman of Jewish Family and Children’s Services commented, “Teachers and students truly want to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and about genocide worldwide. We know this: Education has proven to be one of the most effective ways to address the extraordinary increase in hate occurring in our communities. With this initiative, California will again be leading the nation at a time when such leadership is needed most.”
Speaking for the ADL, Regional Director Seth Brysk offered, “ADL is grateful for State Superintendent Tony Thurmond’s support of Senator Henry Stern’s bill SB 693, the Never Again Education Act. ADL was proud to offer guidance to Senator Stern in drafting the statute to improve Holocaust and genocide education in California. At a moment of sustained high levels of anti-Semitism, coupled by recent sharp increases, including social media messages asserting “Hitler was right”, Holocaust education is as important and relevant as ever. The benefits of Holocaust education are clear; improved knowledge of the Holocaust also fosters better critical thinking skills, openness to differing views, and willingness to challenge intolerant behavior.”
Dr. Kori Street from the USC Shoah Foundation commented, “It shows extraordinary commitment and leadership for the State Superintendent to join forces with Senator Stern and other leaders on this initiative. Education—especially when anchored by innovative resources and tools—can make California stronger than hate.”
“Mandates are not enough; we must ensure we lead with action,” said Senator Stern. “I applaud the efforts of the CDE and State Superintendent Thurmond on his ‘Education to End Hate’ initiative and for prioritizing these issues that affect our youth, schools, and the balance of our society.”
An archived broadcast of the full press conference can be viewed on the CDE Facebook page.
The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education’s website. You may also follow Superintendent Thurmond on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.