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Genocide education grants distributed to local schools

No Place for Hate buttons were given out at Reading Common after more than 30 incidents of racist graffiti were reported in town between May 2017 and November 2018, much of it swastikas found at the high school.PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF FILE

An Act concerning genocide education, a law passed in December 2021, requires all Massachusetts school districts to include genocide education in middle and high schools.

“The rising incidents of racist language and graffiti and the casual use of swastikas demonstrate the urgent need to combat racism,” said Christopher Mauriello, history professor and director of the Salem State University Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) set the goals of genocide instruction as the study of the inhumanity of genocide; to address the history and patterns of genocide that demonstrate how hatred against national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups impacts nations and societies; and to reject the targeting of a specific population and other forms of prejudice that can lead to violence and genocide.


To assist schools in designing and implementing the new mandate, the state Senate established the Genocide Education Trust Fund to be distributed by DESE through a competitive grant program to support teaching and learning.

This month, DESE awarded a total of $1,193,400 in grants to 37 schools or districts statewide, according to spokeswoman Jacqueline Reis. The amount awarded varied depending on student population and the scope of the grant request. Grants ranged from $6,100 for Hingham to the maximum grant of $60,000 for Peabody, “which will use the grant for a two-year comprehensive program,” said Superintendent Josh Vadala.

“This is a difficult topic,” said Michael Harvey, superintendent of the Masconomet Regional School District, which received a $20,000 DESE grant. “We have a legal and moral obligation to teach thoughtfully about genocide. This grant will allow our teachers to have the tools and training necessary and support our mission of celebrating diversity and combating negative stereotypes.”

School leaders were encouraged by DESE to build upon existing curricular and community resources when designing and implementing the new curriculum.


Peabody will partner with Facing History & Ourselves, a Boston-based nonprofit, and the Lappin Foundation, which is based in Beverly, to build awareness of the Holocaust and how it relates to the larger topic of genocide for its 2,800 middle and high school students, according to Vadala.

“Our community has a strong connection to the Holocaust,” said Vadala. “We have three Jewish temples in Peabody and we have an annual Holocaust remembrance event in cooperation with the Salem State Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.”

“It is dangerous to think of the Holocaust or genocide as only history,” added Brad Austin, a Salem State history professor. “Instead of looking at the genocide of Native Americans, Armenians, and more as one-offs, we will look at the patterns and root causes of mass atrocities and partner with teachers to think deeply about the topic and to look at what’s already in the curriculum and how they can build on it.”

Masconomet is one of seven schools north of Boston that will work with Salem State to train educators on the implementation of genocide curriculum materials, content knowledge, and teaching strategies for the 1,600 middle and high school students in the district that serves Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield.

“Working with teachers is important — one teacher can impact the lives of thousands of students,” said Salem State’s Mauriello.

Along with curricular development and teacher training, Masconomet will use the grant funds to expand the school library’s collection of Holocaust materials and bring in enrichment speakers, according to Eva Hughes, who heads the Social Studies Department.


“As educators in the 21st century, we have a moral obligation to teach an understanding and the implications of history so our students develop empathy and become better citizens,” said Hughes.

Linda Greenstein can be reached at greensteinlm@gmail.com.