Holocaust, Ocoee Riots education bill awaits Ron DeSantis’ pen

The bill cleared the House unanimously.

Legislation requiring Holocaust education in public schools and a study on how to incorporate the Ocoee Massacre into the history curriculum heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk Thursday.

That bill (HB 1213), by Rep. Randy Fine, originally just addressed Holocaust education. But Fine implored the House to accept Sen. Randolph Bracy‘s amendment, folded in Tuesday from one of his bills (SB 1262), after learning about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots.

That adopted 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.

November marks the 100th anniversary of the lynching of Julius “July” Perry, a prominent leader in the early Orange County African American community who was attempting to turn out black voters. White rioters torched black-owned buildings in the neighborhood in response.

Between three and 60 African Americans reportedly died in the violence, and the remaining black residents fled.

Last year, Ocoee declared the massacre an act of domestic terror and hoped to shed its history as a “sunset” town where African Americans weren’t allowed after curfew.

The bill also mandates that every school district teach students about the state’s policy against anti-Semitism. The Department of Education would have to create a process for schools to annually certify and provide evidence of compliance with Holocaust instructional requirements.

They may seek input from Commissioner’s Holocaust Education Task Force and other state or nationally recognized organizations to develop the curriculum and instructional material.

Additionally, it would make the second week of November “Holocaust Education Week” to recognize the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

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.

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.”


Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski and Ryan Nicol contributed to this post.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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