In light of an increase in anti-Semitism in the United States, community members joined Ellsworth High School students Monday in a march to City Hall signaling support for the Jewish community. Heidi Omlor, who teaches a year-long Holocaust and genocide elective class at the school, said her students were inspired to take action after class discussions on the rise of verbal and physical attacks against Jewish people, in particular in the days following fighting in Gaza and Israel. As about 25 marchers walked down State Street, passing cars waved, honked and fist-pumped in a display of solidarity. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY ANNE BERLEANT

Genocide, Black history bill is signed into law

ELLSWORTH — Weeks after Ellsworth High School students testified to the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee in Augusta on the importance of teaching the Holocaust and history of genocide, Governor Janet Mills signed into law a bill to integrate the subject into Maine schools.

Sen. Louie Luchini (D-Hancock County) had sponsored the original bill that the students — all members of Heidi Omlor’s year-long elective class on the history of genocide — spoke in support of in May. They did so because the idea first came from them.

“Two years ago, Heidi Omlor and her students in EHS’s Holocaust and genocide studies class approached me with the idea for this legislation,” Luchini said. “I was glad to sponsor the bill, and they did an amazing job advocating before the Legislature. We believe education is fundamental to stemming racism, bigotry and hate.”

As often happens in the legislative process, Luchini’s bill was merged into a similar bill seeking to integrate African-American history into American history taught in Maine schools. And, before passing to the House and Senate for vote, the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee amended the bill’s language to specify the two subjects be added as requirements to the statewide learning results.

“This will add Holocaust and genocide history (as well as African-American history) to the [state] learning results, requiring all Maine teachers to cover these topics,” Omlor said. “My students and I are very excited!”

The bill, now named An Act to Integrate African-American Studies and the History of Genocide into the Statewide System of Learning Results, was officially sponsored by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) and includes provisions from Luchini’s draft legislation. Governor Mills signed the bill on June 16, after the House and Senate passed the bill June 9 and 10, respectively. It takes effect on July 1, 2023.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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