Amid Columbus Dispute, Randolph Faculties Take Names Off Holidays

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RANDOLPH, NJ – Despite stated inclusion intentions, the Randolph Board of Education faces backlash for its decision to remove all holiday names from its school calendar. Weeks after Columbus Day on its calendar was changed to Indigenous Peoples Day, the board voted Thursday to remove all holiday names from the document.

Last month, the board followed a recommendation from its ad hoc committee on diversity, equality and inclusion to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day on the school calendar. The board has faced backlash and protests from critics and Italian-American groups who say the holiday recognizes their common heritage.

The board changed course on Thursday and instead decided to recognize all holidays that were originally on the school calendar as “days off”.

The decision has been criticized by national media representatives, including right-wing political commentator Dan Bongino. The analyst continued “Fox & Friends” that the decision represents an “ideological war” to make people sound xenophobic.

But the chalkboard says the kids will still learn the story behind each vacation, and they haven’t changed any days off.

“Schools will continue to be closed on the days originally approved and our children will know why,” said a Monday statement Monday from the school board. “You will continue to be educated in schools about these important historical events and the people behind them. Everyone should remember that the main purpose of the school calendar is to let parents know when schools will open and close.”

A petition, which had around 1,100 signatures on Monday morning, was created to include Columbus Day in the school calendar again. Petition organizer Franco Piarulli says they believe in celebrating tribal peoples, but “let’s do this without dividing and playing off one group against another,” he wrote.

The Italian American One Voice Coalition – a group that seeks to combat “negative stereotypes about Italian Americans” – has criticized the board for its decision to remove Columbus Day from the school calendar and then all names of holidays.

One Voice is currently suing West Orange over its decision to remove a Columbus monument. Italian-American groups, including One Voice, will announce a plan of action at Randolph Commons with State Senator Anthony Bucco on Monday at 2 p.m.

At the school council meeting on May 13th, board member Susan DeVito made a motion to change Columbus Day on the school calendar to Indigenous Peoples Day. The board voted for it. But the subject was not on the agenda. Community members criticized the board’s process, which they say was not adequately informed in order to receive public contributions.

“In retrospect, it is clear to me that if the motion had been put on the agenda, we would have received this input before the vote,” wrote board member Jeanne Stifelman in TAPinto Randolph. “Our intention was not to exclude input from the community. On the contrary, it was the intention to ensure that all discussions on this topic are open.”

Indigenous Peoples Day – which is celebrated at the same time as Columbus Day – celebrates Native American people and reminds them of their history. It began as a counterpart to Columbus Day, which critics say disinfects the violent history of Western colonization.

Historian Howard Zinn claimed in his book, A People’s History of the United States, that Columbus personally ordered the enslavement and mutilation of the native Arawak people in order to repay their investors.

However, Columbus Day proponents say the explorer leaves behind a more complicated legacy.

“Somehow, in our schools, Columbus is the only person in history who is removed from his own historical context,” says the Randolph petition. “Reputable primary sources indicate that Columbus is not responsible for all allegations. We ask the BOE to investigate these sources and incorporate them into the Randolph Schools curriculum.”