A New Jersey school district has decided to remove all holiday names from the school calendar. The decision was taken after an outcry at a public meeting over a previous decision to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day.
According to nj.com, Randolph school directors voted unanimously to keep specific holidays off the school calendar after residents bristled over the district’s handling of Columbus Day. More than 100 people reportedly had attended the Randolph Board of Education meeting on Thursday to protest the board changing the name of the Columbus Day Holiday.
From now on, Randolph Township’s public school calendar will no longer list any holiday by name. Instead, those days be labeled generically, just as a “Day Off,” with no description of the reason behind it.
Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were also stripped off the calendar by the initiative.
No hurt feelings
The board members changed the holiday names policy in an effort to not offend anyone who feels slighted by days that reference a person, holiday, or ethnic group. “If we don’t have anything on the calendar, we don’t have to have anyone be hurt feelings or anything like that,” board member Dorene Roche said.
“I don’t think really it is the board’s responsibility to be naming these holidays. Either take them off or just adopt whatever the federal and state governments are doing,” board member Ronald Conti said before the vote.
In May, the school board decided to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the school calendar, a move that some states and at least two New Jersey communities and Princeton have already embraced.
Italians feel insulted
In Randolph, residents unhappy with the renaming turned out for Thursday’s meeting. They charged the vote about Holiday names was taken without public input and was insulting to Italian Americans and their contributions to the country.
During the meeting, Columbus Day supporters shouted at school board members and school officials pleaded for better decorum.
Many generations were raised with the belief that Christopher Columbus was the brave explorer who sailed the ocean blue and “discovered” the New World. Many Italians feel this as a dear legacy for their culture.
However the ideal image that reverences Columbus expeditions has increasingly fallen into question as historical perspective has shifted from European colonizers to their native victims.
“I would like to think that the removal of Columbus Day was simply based on a lack of understanding,” Franco Piarulli, a parent, told the board, according to an audio recording of the meeting. “Either that or Italian Americans are simply not part of your definition of inclusion.”
On the other hand, School board member Susan DeVito explained that as more is learned about Columbus, it raises questions about whether he should be celebrated with a holiday. “We need to use that knowledge to be on the right side of history,” DeVito said. “Just because his name has always been on the calendar doesn’t mean it always should be.”