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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #24-18
April 8, 2024
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Thurmond Announces Support for Establishing an Office of Civil Rights at California Department of Education

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today joined State Senator Henry Stern External link opens in new window or tab., State Senator Susan Rubio External link opens in new window or tab., Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California External link opens in new window or tab. representative Cliff Berg, and Anti-Defamation League, Central Pacific External link opens in new window or tab., Deputy Regional Director Teresa Drenick in announcing support for SB 1421 External link opens in new window or tab. to establish an Office of Civil Rights within the California Department of Education (CDE) to investigate complaints that allege unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying at California public schools.

“As an educator and a father, I know how critical it is for every child to feel not only safe in their identity, but proud of their identity at school. That’s why I have been at the forefront of protecting our LGBTQ+ students,” Thurmond said. “It’s our priority to engage directly with every report of antisemitism that our office has received. That is why we must establish a clear avenue so that all students and families are able to access support and resolution when they experience harm at school for being who they are.”

The new Office of Civil Rights would investigate complaints and also report to Thurmond and the CDE on the frequency of incidents of unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying at school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools. It would advise Thurmond and the CDE on the office’s investigations and provide other recommendations.

“I am driven by a profound commitment to the safety and well-being of our children in schools. This bill embodies our collective promise to shield our children from harm and equip them with the knowledge to confront the shadows of history,” said bill author Stern. “It’s a testament to our unwavering dedication to the safety, protection, and enlightenment of the next generation.”

Thurmond’s support for this bill follows his launch of an oral history speaker series for Holocaust survivors and their family members in January to share their personal perspectives with students. The series kicked off at El Cerrito High School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. The oral history event provided more than 100 students with the opportunity to hear testimony from local Holocaust survivor Lisa Brinner.

Student leaders representing the Jewish Student Union, the Muslim Student Association, and the Amnesty International Club at El Cerrito High School welcomed Brinner in person, and students from five other high schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District were able to ask questions to understand Brinner’s experience.

Thurmond is the Co-Chair of the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education. A nationwide survey released in 2020 showed a lack of “Holocaust knowledge” among adults under 40; more than one in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word “Holocaust" External link opens in new window or tab.. Sixty-three percent of Millennials and Generation Z surveyed did not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and over half who did know thought the death toll was fewer than two million people. More than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II, but nearly half of U.S. respondents failed to name a single one. Recent surveys indicate that one in five young Americans think the Holocaust is a myth.

The oral history event was the beginning of a series of survivor testimonies that Thurmond will host in districts across California. Educators who are interested in bringing these historic testimonies to their students should contact

Thurmond was also instrumental in the passage of several pieces of legislation he sponsored that strengthen protections and support for LGBTQ+ Californians, including measures to better support vulnerable youth.

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Tuesday, April 9, 2024
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