Public school teachers in Florida will soon be required to dedicate at least 45 minutes of instruction on “Victims of Communism Day” to teach students about communist leaders around the world and how people suffered under those regimes.
Speaking at Miami’s Freedom Tower before a crowd of local lawmakers and supporters, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 395, which designates Nov. 7 as the state’s official “Victims of Communism Day,” making Florida one of a handful of states to adopt the designation.
It is, however, the first state to mandate school instruction on that day, as Florida Republicans continue to seize on education policy while placing school curriculum at the forefront of their political priorities ahead of the 2022 midterms.
The bill, which DeSantis signed along with two street designations in honor of Cuban exiles, would require the instruction to begin in the 2023-2024 school year. It would require teaching of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro, as well as “poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence, and suppression of speech” endured under those regimes.
“That body count of Mao is something that everybody needs to understand because it is a direct result of this communist ideology,” DeSantis said, noting that tens of millions of people died in China under his rule. “I know we don’t need legislation here to do this but I think it’s our responsibility to make sure people know about the atrocities committed by people like Fidel Castro and even more recently people like Nicolas Maduro.”
The second bill, Senate Bill 160, designates street names in honor of Arturo Diaz Artiles, Maximino and Coralia Capdevila, and Oswaldo Paya.
“There are so many people in our community who have suffered and our own family members have suffered and to us it’s so gratifying to honor them,” said Armando Ibarra, president of Miami Young Republicans and founder of the Florida Commission of Victims of Communism.
Ibarra’s group works closely with Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, an international organization that commemorates the victims of communism and promotes education on the evils of communist regimes. The organization has developed its own curriculum, one of the materials on which the State Board of Education would model its own lessons, said Miami Sen. Manny Diaz, who was appointed last week as the state’s new Education Commissioner.
“We haven’t reviewed it, but the things set forth in the bill have to be taught,” said Diaz.