In a move of solidarity with its students and employees, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education unanimously adopted an emergency resolution Tuesday, condemning Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia.
Los Angeles, home to the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia, has seen a number of demonstrations in recent days after Azerbaijan launched a military attack on Sept. 27 in the autonomous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Artsakh — a mountainous region bordering Armenia and Azerbaijan.
LAUSD’s resolution, called “Standing with the Armenian People and the Republic of Artsakh,” states that attacks launched by Azerbaijan’s military are a direct threat not only to “the Armenian population that has lived in Artsakh for millennia, but also to regional stability fundamental to United States’ interests,” according to a press release from the district.
The resolution comes after the biggest escalation in a decades-old conflict over the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is home to about 150,000 people — about 95% of whom are ethnic Armenians, according to a 2015 census.
For the past week, the Armenian American community in L.A. has decried the escalating violence overseas as a massacre against Armenians and has been calling for international intervention. On Monday, elected officials from the L.A. area also demanded U.S. action to halt Azerbaijan’s attacks.
“Innocent Armenian civilians are dying as a result of this unprovoked attack on their country by Azerbaijan,” said board member Scott Schmerelson, who authored the resolution. “It is important for people around the world to condemn the outrageous aggression.”
And, because Turkey intervened in the conflict, LAUSD board members also called upon the California State Teachers Retirement Fund to divest from “any and all holdings, debt securities, global equities and currency investments by the Republic of Turkey for their continuation of a campaign of genocide against the Armenian people.”
The board also unanimously voted Tuesday to add a new holiday to school calendars to commemorate Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on April 24. Glendale Unified was the first school district in the country to add the day off in 2016 as a day of remembrance for the 1.5 million Armenians killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
“Our Armenian students are a single example of the immense diversity that exists among our student body and we want to acknowledge the significance of their history,” said board member George J. McKenna III, one of many co-sponsors of the resolution.
Superintendent Austin Beutner added that the board recognizes and remembers the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in hopes of helping to prevent such an atrocity from happening again.
“This resolution reaffirms our commitment to teaching students about the importance of human rights,” Beutner said.
Schmerelson said that the world must be stand with the Armenian people as they are once again under attack.
“LA Unified has a robust curriculum on the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust,” he said. “I urge every Social Studies and English teacher in our schools to be sure that they are teaching their students this curriculum. We must never forget.”