Gov. DeSantis signs Holocaust, Ocoee Massacre education bill
Magda Bader shares her experience surviving Auschwitz and speaking in support of Lauren Book's Holocaust Education Bill.

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HB 1213 will require Holocaust education and explore how to teach about the Ocoee Massacre.

With racial injustice issues playing out at both the national and state levels, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Tuesday that would bring questions of race to the forefront of education.

When the law (HB 1213) goes into effect July 1, it will require public schools to certify that they teach about the Holocaust. Another provision of the bill sets the ball rolling on teaching about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots.

“While we will never replace the lives lost or erase the evils committed during the Holocaust, we can ensure Floridians never forget these atrocities,” said Sen. Lauren Book, the legislation’s Senate sponsor.

Book and Rep. Randy Fine worked together with Sen. Randolph Bracy to include language that charges the Education Commissioner’s African American History Task Force with exploring how to teach about the Ocoee Massacre in history classes. Additionally, it promotes opportunities to elevate victims of the riots through park names and exhibits.

“One hundred years ago, the bloodiest day in American political history unfolded in Ocoee, Florida on Election Day,” said Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat. “Now more than ever it is paramount we educate our citizenry about the origins of racial conflict and its manifestations in policies that are anti-black, anti-democratic, and anti-human.”

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 killed Perry and torched Black-owned buildings in the neighborhood in response to his advocacy.

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

In light of George Floyd‘s death after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and the protests that followed, Fine — a Brevard County Republican — said the bill’s timing and wrapping both issues into one was more than appropriate. This month has also seen outcry over online comments made by Florida State University’s Student Senate President that critics called anti-Semitic.

“I think we’re more attuned to this now, whether we’re teaching about the Holocaust or this disgraceful day,” Fine said. “I think now more than ever we need to be teaching these things.”

The Legislature unanimously passed the measure in March, which Fine said put Florida ahead of the curve on several racial issues that have been revisited in recent weeks.

Book and Fine filed the legislation in part because of 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.”

“Our country has finally awoken to systemic racism — but in order to truly dismantle it, we must educate students about the insidious roots of racial injustice and arm them with knowledge and skills to effectively create change,” said Book, a Plantation Democrat.

Auschwitz survivor Magdalen Bader appeared before the Senate 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.

Last year, DeSantis signed legislation, also by Fine and Book, that explicitly targeted anti-Semitism in schools.

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 [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


4 comments

  • BlueHeron

    June 23, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    I am not a parent and so I have not seen a textbook in a good long while.
    Unless I am incorrect, each state education department decides what their history textbooks will and will not include and how any events are portrayed. There should be a standard textbook nationwide that covers the “basics” of American history such as indigenous people, the founding of our country, slavery, Civil War, reconstruction to present, World wars and other military “conflicts”, Jim Crow, civil rights, womens rights, etc…
    Any regions or states need to “customize” to include their own history without a revisionist take where the white man is all powerful and the “negros”, “Indians” and other non whites are portrayed in a weak, subservient and “other” fashion.
    It would also be really remarkable if CIVICS were taught. What the Constitution and Bill of Rights are and what these documents mean in present context.
    We all have bias but a class or two teaching them how to recognize their own bias and how to change negative feelings and behaviors would go a very long way.
    There is so much the children of our country need to be taught.

    When I lived in Texas, I was invited to a Civil War battle re-enactment. I was intrigued so I went. The rebels won. Always won. Seriously? No big deal, right? Just re-enforcing the myth that the rebs won the war, not a lost cause and southern white “heritage” is worthy of continued adulation with their flags, statues and other symbols of hate and subjugation.

  • BlueHeron

    June 23, 2020 at 11:21 pm

    Speaking to this legislation, it’s seems about time that the Holocaust is properly acknowledged and addressed in schools. The Ocoee Riot was a horrific event in our history and should, if taught accurately, put some cracks in the white superiority myth.

    Magdalen Bader is a very tough woman. She has been dealing with the “demons” of her early history for so very long. As there are so few survivors left, my heart is happy that she got to not only speak about her experiences, but has now seen a victory of sorts. That horrific time in history will not be lost but will be taught to generations of school children.

    We need to also make sure that anyone tasked with educating children should either teach the truth or look for another line of work.

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    June 24, 2020 at 9:12 am

    You have to legislate teaching about the Holocaust? To what depth has public education fallen? Maybe the “Christian schools” do a better job at this, when they aren’t “teaching” flat-earth and Jesus-rode-a-dinosaur theories.

  • Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com

    June 26, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Someday, history books should talk about the atrocities committed by Lauren Book, such as her role in forcing hundreds of registered persons to live under bridges.

Comments are closed.


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