Mandating high school instruction about communism’s victims goes to final House vote

The observance would not involve a day off but 45 minutes of instruction for high school government students.

A bill that proposes public school students observe “Victims of Communism Day” and learn about the suffering inflicted by communism is now heading for a final vote in the full House.

Republican Rep. David Borrero of Sweetwater is sponsoring (HB 395) to “memorialize the many millions of victims of communism who have suffered …  since Nov. 7, 1917,” he said.

That’s the date Vladimir Lenin attacked the Russian Parliament, leading to the Bolshevik Revolution. That event is widely considered the birth of a political movement that’s spread suffering to Cambodia, China, Cuba, Venezuela and a host of other nations that high school students in American government class should learn about, he said.

“This bill requires 45 minutes of instruction using examples (from those countries) to remember the victims and how these policies have failed people throughout history,” Borrero said.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Russia’s Lenin and Joseph Stalin, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Cambodia’s Pol Pot and China’s Mao Zedong are the figures mentioned in the legislation that aims to ensure students learn, “how victims suffered under these regimes through suppression of speech, poverty, starvation, migration and systemic lethal violence.”

Similar legislation (SB 268) is making its way through the Senate, now in the Appropriations Committee with Republican Sen. Manny Diaz sponsoring.

In a rare moment of bipartisan spirit, Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite praised the legislation as a “good bill.”

He wanted to know if there was a day off involved. No, Borrero responded.

“This is not to add a legal holiday but rather to create a special observance,” he said.

Willhite had a proposal: Why not get rid of a current holiday in statute, Confederate Memorial Day, on April 26 and add this one in its stead?

“I associate this to something like our license plates — we don’t want to get a new one until we get rid of one,” he said. “We get rid of a bad thing and bring a good thing into our statutes.”

Borrero did not respond but Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls jumped in: “Representative, that’s not the subject of the bill. Would you like to restate your question?”

Willhite did not.

If the bill becomes law, the observation would begin Nov. 7, 2023.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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