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Los Angeles Unified Pursues New Ways to Honor the Armenian Genocide (4-23-19)

Logo for Board Member Kelly Gonez


                                                                                                               Contact: Megan VandenBos



For Immediate Release


Los Angeles Unified Pursues New Ways to Honor the Armenian Genocide

Los Angeles Unified will consider calendar changes for April 24, as well as expanded professional development so all students learn about the atrocity


LOS ANGELES, April 23, 2019 – The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education unanimously approved Board Member Kelly Gonez’ resolution to develop a plan to accommodate students and families who honor April 24 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Board President Mónica García and Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson co-sponsored the resolution.

As a result of the resolution, the second largest school district in the country will develop plans for designating Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day as a potential pupil-free day, unassigned day or holiday in future school years. On April 24, parts of Los Angeles Unified see double the number of absences in commemoration of the genocide.

“The Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is a significant day for many of our students whose families survived the horror of the Armenian Genocide and for the entire Armenian community whose suffering at the hands of the Ottoman Empire continues to be denied even today,” Board Member Gonez said. “In the East San Fernando Valley, we have vibrant and active Armenian communities who make it a priority to remember and honor the 1.5 million lives lost during the genocide. I am proud of our District for taking this leap to better accommodate our families’ cultural backgrounds by considering changes to the school calendar in coming years.”

“Power is the ability to define our reality,” Board President García said. “We fully recognize the atrocities of 1915, and as a District, we commit to educating our children about the Armenian Genocide. We thank the Armenian community, parents, students and leaders for working with Board Member Gonez and demonstrating leadership regarding this important matter.”

“We must never forget the horror and tragedy of the Armenian genocide of 1915,” said Board Member Schmerelson. “With the passing of each anniversary of this sad chapter in history, we are reminded of the need for justice for the Armenian people. Other 20th century genocidal crimes and atrocities occurred because of the global failure to recognize and address the Armenian Genocide.”

“Through education, we can ensure that we not only remember the past but use that history to create a better future,” said Board Vice President Nick Melvoin. “For far too long, the Armenian Genocide was not commemorated for what it was—the atrocities not acknowledged and the crucial lessons not learned. Racial and religious violence is unfortunately not just a part of history but a part of our present. This recognition will hopefully help remedy that.”

"As a former history teacher, I can appreciate the dangers of never learning from history, for those that don't are doomed to repeat it,” said Board Member Dr. Richard A. Vladovic. “We must recognize the actions committed a century ago, for the sake of those that lost their lives as much as for future generations to know that these horrific actions will happen again if we refuse to acknowledge the horror of ethnic hatred run amok."

“It is imperative to recognize and remember the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to prevent such atrocious historical events from happening again,” said Superintendent Austin Beutner. “This resolution reaffirms our commitment to working together to ensure our students are educated and engaged on the significance of human rights and genocide studies.”

“Education is one of the most powerful tools that we have to teach students how to embrace each other’s diversity rather than draw divisions from distinctions,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Vivian Ekchian. “We must think in terms of ‘we together,’ not ‘us versus them’ and open our hearts to let everyone inside so that no one is left to feel like an outcast. It continues to be my proud life’s mission to pursue this work on behalf of students and our community.”

The resolution also calls for expanded professional development to ensure the first genocide of the 20th century is appropriately and meaningfully taught to students, staff and the community.

“Each year, the Board commemorates the Armenian Genocide in April,” Board Member Gonez concluded. “This year we are going further to deepen instruction so that every student, regardless of their heritage, learns about the genocide and its impact on the Armenian community and on global history.”