Teachers, students sue Massachusetts Department of Education over genocide curriculum

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Arguing that new state curriculum guidelines on the Armenian genocide deprive students of the complete historical picture, two local teachers and a high school student have signed on as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the Massachusetts Department of Education.

The historical account in question is a two-year span during World War I in which anywhere from 600,000 to 1.5 million Armenians were deported by the Turkish government and killed or allowed to die. While these events are generally accepted as historical fact, the particulars are controversial.

The Massachusetts curriculum used to include some materials that depicted the events in Armenia as genocide and some that did not characterize it as such. However, the latter documents have been removed from the curriculum.

The lawsuit filed last Wednesday maintains that the Massachusetts Department of Education, and its commissioner, David P. Driscoll, violated students’ First Amendment rights when it removed the materials arguing that the deportations did not constitute genocide.

Officials at the Department of Education could not be reached for comment.

One of the plaintiffs, Lawrence Aaronson, is a history teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Another plaintiff, William Schechter, teaches at Lincoln-Sudbury High School.

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