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‘Never again’: House passes Holocaust education legislation

Legislature takes another stand against anti-Semitism

Legislation requiring students to learn about the Holocaust passed the House this week unanimously.

Brevard Republican Rep. Randy Fine‘s bill (HB 1213) would require the Florida Department of Education to give schools curriculum standards for teaching the subject in K-12 schools.

It also mandates that every school district and charter school also teach students about the state’s policy against anti-Semitism.

The department would have to create a process for schools to annually certify and provide evidence of compliance with the Holocaust instructional requirements.

They may contract with Florida Holocaust Museum and other state or nationally recognized organizations to develop the curriculum and instructional material.

The legislation was prompted in part by comments made by former Spanish River High School principal William Latson in 2018, who told a student’s parent that he couldn’t state the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event.”

Fine introduced amendments, including one expanding funding available to Holocaust education organizations.

Bill debate was laudatory.

Rep. Tina Polsky said that a “lot of eyes” were opened up about the need for Holocaust education during the process of this bill, which will “require schools finally” to teach about anti-Semitism and Holocaust education.

The Senate companion (SB 1628) sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book is on the Special order calendar.

The bill follows on legislation sponsored by Fine last year that explicitly targeted anti-Semitism in schools.

“No legislature has done more,” Fine said, to combat anti-Semitism.

That bill was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in Jerusalem, with members of both parties behind him as he did so. Expect this measure to have that kind of resounding support.

With extremism on the rise, including people of Jewish descent being targeted on streets around the world and the unfurling of a Nazi flag at a Bernie Sanders rally days ago, legislators clearly sense that without a state stand against anti-Semitism, it may be normalized further among some groups.

Fine lived a lot of that, noting he was called a “Kentucky fried Jew” as a kid.

“It wasn’t an easy life,” Fine declaimed.

Fine mentioned the risks he takes, noting that he “lose[s] votes” every time he carries legislation like this.

“There aren’t a lot of Jews in Brevard,” Fine noted, describing how he came close to giving a “farewell speech” to the Legislature, which would have included a description of a group text sent to his son that included pro-Hitler statements and symbolism.

“It’s why I thought about leaving the Legislature,” Fine said. “If I can’t protect my kids, how can I protect anyone else’s.”

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Florida Politics’ Sarah Mueller contributed to this post.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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