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Magda Bader shares her experience surviving Auschwitz and speaking in support of Lauren Book's Holocaust Education Bill.

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Holocaust education bill amended and must bounce back to House

The measure is enjoying bipartisan support.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday requiring Holocaust education in public schools, but not without an amendment.

A Sen. Randolph Bracy amendment would call on the Education Commissioner’s African American History Task Force to recommend ways the history of the Ocoee Massacre can be taught in schools was added, meaning the House will have to vote on it. 

The House bill, by Rep. Randy Fine, was subbed for the essentially identical Senate version from Sen. Lauren Book.

That 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 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 the 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.”

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

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.

Auschwitz survivor Magdalen Bader appeared before the Senate earlier this session to make the case for the bill.

Bader was born in Czechoslovakia and survived several concentration camps.

“I may look like I’m happy and smiling — and I am — but inside me, every day I think of all the horrors that we went through,” Bader said.

“I cannot believe that this happened to me and so many millions of others many, many, many years ago. But it’s still very important to remember.”

Sen. Book, in her close, thanked Senators for listening to her, saying Bader felt honored.

“Florida’s students deserve to learn about history in its totality — the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. Unless we learn about, and from, our history, we are at risk to repeat it. As legislators and simply as human beings, it is our responsibility to ensure future generations receive Holocaust education — especially after reports of misinformation in Florida public schools. I thank my colleagues for their support of this critical legislation and look forward to Governor DeSantis making this good bill law,” Book added in a statement.

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Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski and Ryan Nicol 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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