On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, the California State Assembly unanimously passed the Armenian Genocide Education Act (AB 1915) with a sweeping vote of 77-0, requiring the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the list of studied subject areas for the adopted courses of study in Social Science for 7-12 reported the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA WR).
AB 1915, which received unanimous support in the California State Assembly Appropriation Committee just last week as well as in the California State Assembly Education Committee in early April has now moved to the CA Senate Rules Committee for consideration.
“This landslide victory is yet another testament of what grassroots in action can achieve. The ANCA WR applauds the California State Assembly for taking such a strong stance on this critical education bill and Assemblymembers Nazarian and Achadjian for their leadership,” stated Elen Asatryan, Executive Director of the ANCA-WR. “We look forward to continuing our work alongside our elected officials on the senate side and our grassroots to ensure that future generations learn about the atrocities that took place during the Armenian Genocide of 1915,” added Asatryan.
In his introductory remarks, lead author of AB 1915 Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, discussed the importance of the bill and stated “It is imperative that the Armenian Genocide be added into the teaching of human rights issues because it set the stage for subsequent genocides of the 20th century”, while Principal Co-Author Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian noted “We cannot change what has happened in the past, but we can choose how we move forward. This bill represent a step forward in the healing process. AB 1915 will increase awareness of the Armenian Genocide among our youth in hopes that such tragic acts will not repeat themselves”.
Specifically, AB 1915: 1) Requires each school district to include instruction on the inhumanity of the Armenian Genocide as a part of its social science course of study in grades 7 through 12, inclusive. 2) Encourages the California Department of Education to incorporate into publications that provide examples of curriculum resources for teacher use those materials developed by publishers of nonfiction, trade books, and primary sources, or other public or private organizations, that are age-appropriate and consistent with the subject frameworks on history and social science that deal with the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides. 3) Encourages the incorporation of survivor, rescuer, liberator, and witness testimony into the teaching of the Holocaust, and genocide, including, but not limited to, the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides. 4) Encourages all state and local professional development activities to provide teachers with content background and resources to assist in teaching about the Armenian Genocide. 5) Requires the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), when the history-social science curriculum is revised as required by law, to consider including the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides in the history-social science curriculum framework. 6) Defines the Armenian Genocide as “the torture, starvation, and murder of 1,500,000 Armenians, which included death marches into the Syrian desert, by the rulers of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and exile of more than 500,000 innocent people during the period from 1915 to 1923, inclusive.
Last week, ANCA Western Region Executive Director Elen Asatryan submitted a strongly worded letter in support of AB 1915 on behalf of the organization noting “Despite the existence of the provision within the framework (pursuant to AB 1273 which was enacted in 1985), the Armenian Genocide is not taught in the overwhelming majority of our public schools. The State Assembly recently passed AB 659 which encourages inclusion of oral history components in the instruction of human rights issues, including the Armenian Genocide. This law is a step in the right direction, but not enough to achieve the objective of instruction across all public schools across the state. What is necessary is enactment of AB 1915 which would mandate such instruction while providing teachers with the tools that they need”.
In the weeks leading up to State Assembly consideration of the measure, the ANCA Western Region worked closely with legislators to ensure they learned of the broad, enthusiastic support for the measure, especially during the organization’s 2014 Advocacy Day when over 350 activists from California including a group of students from San Marino High School who have taken up the Genocide Education as their senior project, met with over 70 California legislators.
On Wednesday April 9th, ANCA Western Region Education Committee Chair Alice Petrossian and ANCA Western Region Education Committee Executive Member and writer Kay Mouradian testified in front of the California State Assembly Education Committee in support of the bill along with joint author of AB 1915 Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian. Assembly Education Committee members, Chair Joan Buchanan and Assemblymember Rocky J. Chavez offered supportive remarks prior to its unanimous passed.
Further, earlier this year, the State Assembly Education and Appropriations Committees unanimously adopted AB 659, another bill introduced by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. The bill, which is on its way to the California State Senate, encourages schools to use oral histories when teaching about the Armenian Genocide and other acts against humanity. AB 659 set the stage for the presentation of AB 1915.
Once adopted by the State Senate and signed into law by the Governor, AB 1915 would codify the Armenian Genocide into the curriculum of 7th to 12th grade Social Science and History classes. It would also recommend publication about the Armenian Genocide and other genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur in instructional materials provided to instructors about crimes against humanity.
Currently, California is one of 11 states, including Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia, which have the Armenian Genocide included in their curriculum. The California Model Curriculum developed by the Department of Education, includes the Armenian Genocide as a recommended topic to teach. However, schools aren’t required to follow this Model Curriculum.
Coauthors of AB 1915 on the Assembly side include Assembly Members Ammiano, Ian Calderon, Fox, Gatto, Hall, Holden, Nestande, Patterson, and Wilk. Coauthors on the Senate side include Senators Berryhill, Lara, Vidak, and Yee.
Legislators who voted in support of the bill included Achadjian, Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Bigelow, Bloom, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Brown, Buchanan, Ian Calderon, Campos, Chau, Chávez, Chesbro, Conway, Cooley, Dababneh, Dahle, Daly, Dickinson, Donnelly, Eggman, Fong, Fox, Beth Gaines, Garcia, Gatto, Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Gorell, Gray, Grove, Hagman, Hall, Harkey, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones, Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Logue, Lowenthal, Maienschein, Mansoor, Medina, Melendez, Mullin, Muratsuchi, Nazarian, Nestande, Olsen, Pan, Patterson, Perea, John A. Pérez, V. Manuel Pérez, Quirk-Silva, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas, Skinner, Stone, Ting, Wagner, Waldron, Weber, Wieckowski, Wilk, Williams, Yamada, Atkins
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.