NC Holocaust Education Act
Holocaust Education in North Carolina
By Marty Mann, CJJ-West member
As a member of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust (a council under the NC Department of Public Instruction) and a retired Buncombe County educator, I want to better educate the Jewish community on the Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act. (Gizella Abramson was a Holocaust survivor who created the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust.) I believe there has not been enough education regarding this law and its history provided for North Carolina educators, parents, and the community. This article seeks to remedy that lack of information.
Over the past year and a half the Holocaust Council and state educational agencies have been working to develop a curriculum and to train staff to implement the Act’s requirements, currently scheduled to begin next school year. Here are some key points about the history and content of the Act, partially taken from an article for the North Carolina Holocaust Speakers Bureau by Raleigh attorney Richard Schwartz, Co-Chair of the NC Council on the Holocaust:
In 2019 the late Representative Linda Johnson, emotionally moved by her attendance at a teacher workshop conducted by the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust, introduced a bill that became known as the Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act.
The General Assembly passed a budget that year that included enacting the bill. Due to disagreements between the Governor and the General Assembly the Governor vetoed the budget bill, and therefore the Act was not passed.
After passage failed the Act was revived in 2021 to include language from the federal
“Never Again Education Act” enacted in 2020, requiring that the federal act’s concepts of anti-Semitism, Holocaust, and Holocaust denial and distortion be used for our state’s standards, staff development, and curriculum and materials.
The revised bill also “significantly strengthened our education laws by requiring the State Board of Education to review the middle school and high school curriculum and to consult with the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust and North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching to integrate education on the Holocaust and genocide into English, Social Studies, and other courses, as appropriate.”
The bill provided for “the development of a state-wide Holocaust Studies elective for middle schools and high schools and required the state Department of Public Instruction and local boards of education to provide professional development to ensure the appropriate implementation of this Act, working with the NC Council on the Holocaust.”
The bill finally passed in 2021 and provides funds from the state budget for two years to be used in preparation of the curriculum to be implemented in the classroom beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. It is possible that implementation of the Act could be delayed, but that would require a change in the law.
The Act’s reach is statewide, forming part of the NC Standards for Grades 6-12. Teachers will be required to attend professional development created by the state to teach content and strategies for the subject matter. The schools’ leadership in each school, school systems’ central office personnel, and the Department of Public instruction will attempt to ensure that the curriculum is consistently taught from classroom to classroom and school district to school district.
I believe while the Jewish community stands to benefit from this Act, unfortunately it addresses only a small part of what should be taught in classrooms regarding the true history of our country and world. There are many ethnic, religious, racial, and other groups that have not had their histories accurately portrayed. As Jews, we need to be active in speaking out for others. Accurate and complete history must be taught to every student, as we all have contributed to this country.
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