Governor Ron DeSantis today signed HB 1213 into law, mandating a uniformed statewide Holocaust education curriculum and education on the Ocoee Election Day massacre of 1920 in Florida’s public schools. The bill as originally filed by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) and Representative Randy Fine (R-Brevard County) focused on standardizing and ensuring Holocaust education – a need realized when stories of a Florida public school Principal’s refusal to call the Holocaust’s occurrence a fact and the school district’s unacceptable delay in removing the administrator made international headlines last year. Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) worked with Book on the addition of language relating to the Ocoee massacre – a horror that occurred in Bracy’s own community in 1920 – to ensure students are educated about the horrific racial injustice allowed in Florida’s not-too-distant past.
“While we will never replace the lives lost or erase the evils committed during the Holocaust, we can ensure Floridians never forget these atrocities. After a series of news articles revealed not all students were receiving proper factual and consistent education, the need for a uniform statewide curriculum became clear. Thank you to Holocaust survivor Magda Bader, 90, for coming to the Florida Capitol to share her story – undeterred by age and travel, Magda has helped to educate new generations about the powers of both good and evil through enactment of this bill,” says Senator Book.
More than 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, a fact one third of Americans do not believe to be true, and two thirds of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. Similarly, the Ocoee Election Day Massacre – which annihilated the black population of an entire Central Florida community due to outrage over a black man attempting to exercise his legal right to vote – is not taught in Florida schools and many Floridians have no idea of the murderous event. Proponents of the legislation argue that ignoring the history of ethnic and racial persecution leaves us vulnerable to racism, anti-Semitism, revisionist history, and evils similar to those of the past.
“One hundred years ago, the bloodiest day in American political history unfolded in Ocoee, Florida on Election Day,” says Senator Bracy. “The signing of this legislation will spread the story of the Ocoee Massacre into museum exhibits and classrooms, and will inscribe victims’ names into school buildings and state parks. 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. I am proud to have sponsored this historic piece of legislation and am grateful for Senator Book’s partnership in getting this bill across the finish line.”
Book continues: “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. This bill ensures Florida schools will shine a light on the historical injustices imposed on black citizens – including the atrocities committed at the Ocoee Election Day Riots of 1920, when a white mob massacred innocent black men attempting to exercise their essential right to vote, then burned black-owned businesses and residences to the ground — murdering or terrorizing every single black resident until there were none. Florida’s schoolchildren must be educated about the evils of the past so those evils may never be repeated.”
The legislation goes into effect July 1.