By Richard Swartz, Vice-Chair of the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust
Summary of House Bill 69 – Education on the Holocaust and Genocide
In 2019 the General Assembly passed a budget that included what would have been a new law, known as the “Gizella Abramson Holocaust Education Act.” Unfortunately, when the budget was vetoed, that legislation died with the budget.
Now, in the current session of the General Assembly, that Act has been revived and significantly strengthened. It is working its way through the General Assembly as House Bill 69. Like the previous legislation, it would add a new section to our education laws, 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 into English, Social Studies, and other courses, as appropriate, education on the Holocaust and genocide, and to develop a state-wide Holocaust Studies elective for middle schools and high schools. The State Department of Public Instruction and local boards of education would be required to provide professional development to ensure the appropriate implementation of this Act, again working with the NC Council on the Holocaust and others.
In addition to those provisions that were in the 2019 version, the new legislation incorporates significant language from the “Never Again Education Act” passed by the United States Congress on May 29, 2020. The new legislation requires the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction to review resources and programs developed under that federal law and to incorporate certain definitions from that law. Specifically, for any new standards, curriculum, professional development, or materials developed in North Carolina, the terms “antisemitism,” “Holocaust,” and “Holocaust denial and distortion” must be used and defined consistent with their definitions under the federal law. The legislation would also provide $500,000 to be utilized over the next two years to implement the act. Implementation is scheduled for the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.
House bill 69 has been approved by the House Education K-12 Committee and is pending before the House Appropriations Committee. We are very hopeful it will be approved during the current session of the General Assembly.