|The Senate Education Committee on Thursday adopted an amended Senate Bill 216, which requires public school students to receive instruction about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.
The bill, as amended, exempts “private, parochial, and denominational schools” from Holocaust instruction while also removing long-held statutory language directing those schools to provide specified instruction in subjects such as civics, the U.S. Constitution, and West Virginia government.
Senator Rollan Roberts of Raleigh County sponsored the amendment removing non-public schools from Holocaust instruction and effectively other statutory curricular requirements. Senator Roberts said he “didn’t want the state of West Virginia to keep dipping” into autonomy of non-public schools, telling non-public schools they “must do what they’re already doing.”
In response to a question from Senator David Stover of Wyoming County, Senator Roberts said the required curricular provisions didn’t aptly apply to home schools, micro schools, or school learning pods, although some Committee members stated home-school students interface with public schools through assessment requirements.
Senator Mark Maynard of Wayne County reiterated Senator Roberts’ comments, saying non-public schools are more “free market-driven,” which distinguishes them from public schools.
Senator Stover wondered whether non-public schools should meet certain expectations or oversight.
Senator Roberts, however, said state requirements placed on non-public schools seemed “almost oppressive.” His amendment was adopted by voice vote.
Senator Laura Wakim Chapman of Ohio County asked Senate Education Counsel whether the term “other genocides” was defined.
“I would like to know what other genocides would be,” she said. No amendment was made to provide a statutory definition for “other genocides.”
The bill says Holocaust instruction will teach “students knowledge of the Holocaust and other genocides, identify relevant global actors in historical genocides, inform students of social and political contextual factors that influence genocides, describe the outcomes of genocides; familiarize students with, as applicable, the history, context, and explanation of the Holocaust and other genocides, and the influence of the Holocaust and other genocides on law, history, government, migration, religion, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and culture.”
The bill was also amended to require students to be instructed in “financial literacy.” According to State Superintendent David Roach, financial literacy instruction is required under state Board of Education curricular objectives and taught across the curriculum.
The committee also adopted Senate Bill 489, which requires county boards to provide “free, discrete access to feminine hygiene products” in grades 3-12 to female students who do not otherwise have access to feminine hygiene products. County boards would be required to develop policies regarding access to feminine hygiene products.
The Committee also adopted House Bill 2800, which authorizes higher education legislative rules.
Teacher groups discuss report on education challenges
West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee and West Virginia AFT (WV-AFT) President Fred Albert discussed “Solution for Success Results.”
The WVEA and WV-AFT sponsored a series of statewide focus groups last year to study how to improve public education in West Virginia after the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, which showed marked decline in student achievement. The “Solution for Success Results” report came from those focus groups.
Participants identified lack of certified teachers, student disciplinary matters, parental and community involvement in schools, student well-being, and lack of respect for teachers as factors affecting overall school considerations in West Virginia.
Mr. Lee and Mr. Albert made recommendations for improving schooling and bolstering academic achievement.