Sasser helps introduce bill to teach about Holocaust in schools

Published 9:47 am Monday, March 1, 2021

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There’s a new effort in the state to require students to learn about the Holocaust.

N.C. Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly) is a primary sponsor for a bill that if passed would require middle and high school students to receive instruction about the Holocaust and genocide.

The bipartisan bill, introduced a few weeks ago as House Bill 69 by Sasser along with Reps. Julia Howard (R-District 77), Jeffrey Elmore (R-District 94) and Robert Reives (D-District 54), requires that Holocaust education be included in the state’s Standard Course of Study.

This would mean that instruction regarding the Holocaust and genocide would also be included in social studies classes, English classes and other subjects where Holocaust education would likely be discussed. The bill, which also offers a Holocaust Studies elective for students to take, invites the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust to help with implementing the curriculum.

The Holocaust was the systematic murder by the Nazis and their allies of more than 6 million European Jews and others before and during World War II.

“It’s not about religion or any focus on what one group thinks, it’s just about history,” Sasser said about the bill, noting that genocides — which are the deliberate killings of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group — are still occurring today across the world.

Wayne Sasser

A former history major, Sasser enjoys reading about the past and about different cultures, especially former president Andrew Jackson and the Lakota people, a Native American tribe out west in North and South Dakota.

The “Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act” is named after a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who relocated to Raleigh. Before she died in 2011, Abramson spoke at schools about the Holocaust.

Most middle and high schools already teach about the Holocaust to some degree, but this legislation would make the education mandatory.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis said that with the state recently approving of new social studies standards, she feels confident the Holocaust and its impact on history will be discussed in classrooms.

“I do think that they’re worthwhile topics to be included in our study of history,” she said.

With more and more Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans dying each year, “it can be really easy to forget about that part of history,” Sasser said, which makes educating young people about it all the more important.

“It’s about being a decent human being,” Sasser said about the need for more Holocaust and genocide education.

The same legislation was passed by the House in 2019, but was never acted on in the Senate. It was included as part of the state budget approved by lawmakers, but vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

The bill currently sits in the Committee on Education-K-12. Sasser is not aware of a companion bill in the Senate.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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