SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Steven Ugol, 16, studies up on the Holocaust at home with his mother, but there's no mandatory requirement that other Arizona students receive the same instruction.
"I think that school districts can opt-out if they want to now. That's allowed, and I think its something that really shouldn't be," said Char Ugol, Steven's mother. "It's important for everyone to study these things because it helps with tolerance, helps with understanding of other people. And to leave it out is unacceptable."
A few weeks ago, Steven, who has autism, spoke to the State Board of Education about the need to make Holocaust education mandatory in all public schools.
"Teaching the Holocaust in Arizona public schools is necessary," Ugol told School Board members. There is a patchwork of Holocaust and genocide curriculum, but not a statewide rule to teach it."
Arizona currently has Holocaust education included in its History and Social Science Standards, but it's up to individual schools and districts to determine how much of the topic is covered. An increase in the number of hate crimes and antisemitic incidents nationwide has prompted 13 states to pass new laws requiring Holocaust education in public schools.
Rabbi Jeremy Schneider, with Tempe Kol Ami of Scottsdale, said with the number of Holocaust survivors diminishing, it's important to pass their stories and the atrocities they went through, onto the next generation.
"Ignorance is the truest sense of not knowing, and so the only way to combat ignorance is to educate," said Schneider. "That is why our schools are the best place to teach about the Holocaust."
A couple of state lawmakers are currently working on a bill that would make Holocaust education a requirement in all public schools.
The Anti-Defamation League of Arizona released this statement:
“Holocaust Education, when done responsibility and effectively, has been shown to foster empathy in students and instill civic responsibility and duty to engage with others in a compassionate way. This is especially true when students engage with primary sources, especially first-person testimony, which is a staple of ADL’s Echoes & Reflections Holocaust education curriculum. In Arizona alone, over 1,100 educators have participated in Echoes & Reflections since the program’s inception in 2015."
A 2016 internal evaluation study found that students participating in ADL’s Echoes & Reflections lessons showed greater gains in stated learning outcomes than their counterparts not utilizing Echoes & Reflections content.
For more information on the effort go here.