April 24 will be now designated “Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day” in the Glendale Unified School District after a unanimous vote by school board members on Tuesday.
Since the 2013-14 school year, students and teachers have been given the day off on April 24 — globally observed as the recognition of the Armenian Genocide — because so many of them take part in genocide events, such as the annual remembrance march through Hollywood.
However, school officials wanted to locally brand the day, which until now was referred to only as a non-instructional day.
“Every calendar in the school district, it’s going to be printed ‘Armenian Genocide [Commemoration] Day,” said board member Greg Krikorian. “It’s going to be embedded in there.”
Glendale Unified is the first school district in the country to establish a day in remembrance of the genocide, which began in 1915 and resulted in the killing of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
Glendale has one of the largest Armenian populations outside of Armenia.
Krikorian said the genocide remembrance day is also about welcoming other ethnicities to participate and learn about the genocide, adding that while growing up in Hartford, Conn., he learned a lot about the local Irish and Italian populations.
“I think it’s good to know what your neighbors and co-workers went through,” he said.
Christine Walters, board president, echoed those statements, saying the commemoration day is also a lesson about man’s inhumanity to man.
“I think for us to be able to really embrace our cultural history and our collective cultural history is extremely important and really educating students about how things can get out of control,” she said.
While it is important to afford people the time to observe April 24 in their own ways, it’s also significant for the day to have a label, said board member Armina Gharpetian.
“Naming the day has a lot more value and meaning to our students, to our teachers, to the whole entire district and the city,” she said.
Elen Asatryan, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region, praised the decision during the school board meeting.
She spoke of the massive relief effort by the United States immediately following the Armenian Genocide in the form of aid, including opening 400 orphanages and caring for 132,000 orphans. Establishing “Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day” is a way of expressing appreciation for that aid, Asatryan said.
“You’re also commemorating those who have really risked their lives and gone overseas during that time to really help save the Armenian nation,” she said.