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Baker signs genocide education bill

Students in Massachusetts middle and high schools will soon learn about the history of genocides around the globe as a required part of their curriculum.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday signed legislation to mandate lessons on the Holocaust and other mass atrocities and to help school systems develop those lessons plans. Legislators said the collective knowledge of genocides appears to be declining and said they hoped that teaching about such acts will help prevent them in the future.

Chris Mauriello, who leads the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Salem State University, told WBUR's Radio Boston earlier this week that Massachusetts is "a bit late" to enact such a requirement since about 19 other states already have similar mandates. Still, he said, it is "essential" that the new curriculum be made available to all middle and high school students.

"By this bill being front and center, it provides our teachers and our curriculum directors with an opportunity to integrate human rights into the curriculum in the middle and high school. And human rights education is just central to understanding not only, again, what happened in the past in terms of comparative genocide, slavery, atrocities in the past, but I think it's a conversation that many students want to have and many teachers need to have with their students," he said. "This provides a framework for understanding themes that our students and our teachers need and want to talk about."

The bill (S 2557) that Baker signed also creates a Genocide Education Trust Fund that will help schools and districts develop curriculum and host training or professional development courses for educators. Some of the money used to seed the trust fund is expected to come from fines imposed for hate crimes or civil rights violations.

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