Oregon will require public schools to teach about the Holocaust under a measure sent to the governor.
Lawmakers unanimously voted Tuesday to add Holocaust instruction to the school curriculum starting in the 2019-2020 school year. Ten other states require some level of genocide education in schools.
Under the measure, high schools in the state are mandated to incorporate “specific references to the Holocaust and genocide” into their social studies curriculum, the state House said in an announcement.
State Rep. Janeen Sollman (D), one of the chief sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement that the bill “is about keeping history alive.”
“This legislation is about ensuring that our students learn about our true history, learn to appreciate and understand our survivors’ stories, and continue to tell those stories to prevent such actions again,” she continued.
According to the state House’s announcement, the legislation was inspired by a local student from Oswego, Claire Sarnowski, who introduced the idea with the help of Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener.
Wiener died last year, but Sarnowski spoke about his influence on the legislation in recent public testimony.
“Alter’s dream was to mandate education which would continue the legacy of the Holocaust and genocides,” she said. “Although he is not here with me today, he prepared me to carry on this mission and to persevere in making this a reality. … We need to ensure these atrocities are never forgotten nor ignored.”
Some say that those awareness gaps can have consequences. The Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-Semitic incidents at K-12 schools quadrupled from 2015 to 2017.
Rep. Janeen Sollman says the bill is in honor of Holocaust survivor Alter Wiener, who died last year after he was struck by a car.
Sollman says Wiener spoke publicly about his three years as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps and hoped that “by sharing his painful story over and over, history would not repeat itself.”
Having already passed the state Senate, the bill now heads to Gov. Kate Brown (D) for consideration.
If signed, Oregon would become the 11th state to pass legislation requiring schools to teach students about the Holocaust and other genocides.
The news comes several weeks after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) passed legislation “strongly encouraging” schools in his state to add Holocaust education to their curriculum.