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Bipartisan bill would create Holocaust Education Week in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY — Next April, students across Missouri would observe Holocaust Education Week under a bill heard by state senators Wednesday.

The proposed legislation would provide “age-appropriate Holocaust education” to students in sixth grade through high school. Additionally, the bill states school districts shall provide professional development for teachers to ensure they are adequately prepared to give lessons on the topic.

Bill sponsor Rep. Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles, presented the legislation to the Senate Progress and Development Committee on Wednesday.

According to the bill, the intention of Holocaust Education Week is to educate students on its history but also to “inspire in students a sense of responsibility to recognize and uphold human value and to prevent future atrocities.”

Officially it would be observed during the second week of April in proximity to Holocaust Remembrance Day. However, Schwadron told the committee that school districts could teach the material at any time that works for their schedules.

The legislation would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a curriculum framework. It also encourages the use of materials from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.

Schwadron said the museums have many educational resources available that could help districts teach their students about the European genocide. If passed, the Holocaust curriculum would need to be in place for the 2023-2024 school year.

Schwadron and Sen. Brian Williams, D-St. Louis County, announced the bill last December at the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.

Williams sponsors a similar Senate bill. The committee had previously heard testimony on that version.

Schwadron said Wednesday that the idea for the bill was brought to him by Missouri high school student Noah Kleinlehrer.

Schwadron noted the bill makes small but important changes to the way the atrocity is referred to in state statute.

“When referring to the Holocaust, the H should always be capitalized,” Schwardon said.

A representative from the Missouri Catholic Conference testified in support of the bill Wednesday, saying, “It’s such an important topic for religious tolerance and tolerance generally.”

The St. Louis Jewish Light reports 18 states have implemented Holocaust Education Week. The Missouri House bill currently has 45 bipartisan co-sponsors.

The bill is advancing in the same legislative session where lawmakers put forth numerous bills to curtail the teaching of what they perceive to be critical race theory. Critics have said those bills will silence teachers’ instructions on another historic wrong, including American slavery.

Wednesday’s hearing also included testimony from Rep. Mark Sharp, D-Kansas City, on his bill that would designate the month of February as “Black History Month” and November as “Native American Heritage Month” in Missouri.

Jana Rose Schleis is a M.A. student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She is studying investigative journalism and government reporting.