Move Follows Outrage By Italian-American Group

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Paterson School District now seems to be making a discovery of its own: Don’t mess with Columbus Day.

An Italian-American advocacy group expressed outrage by the district’s decision to keep schools open on Columbus Day this year. The Italian American One Voice Coalition said the decision was particularly outrageous because the district will be closed on Nov. 7 to mark the Muslim holiday of Eidh-Al-Adha.

“In a state with the second highest number of Italian American residents it seems inconceivable that a holiday honoring the great… Christopher Columbus seems no longer important enough to remain on the Paterson school calendar,” said Andre DiMino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition.

“This is the wrong message to give to our children, an embarrassment to Italian-American students and an insult to all New Jersey Italians,” DiMino said, according to the group’s website.

The district’s website, however, made clear school was in session on Columbus Day as a makeup day due to September flooding.

The website though does show that the district is closed on Nov. 7 to mark Eidh-Al-Adha.

“If they want to take a day off for a Muslim holiday that’s up to them but don’t take away a holiday that’s for Italian-Americans,” DiMino said. “Why wouldn’t they open school on other holidays, like Martin Luther King Day? Why does it have to be on Columbus Day?”

It seems the group’s reaction caught the district’s attention.

“Due to the unique circumstances of this year, one option was to follow the practice of some other school districts by remaining open on Columbus Day- a non-religious holiday,” the district said in a statement. “However, we have reconsidered this decision and will close on Monday, Oct. 10th and will make up this day at another time.”

The district noted that the school year started late this year due to flooding. It also noted that a minimum of 180 days of student attendance is required by law.

Paterson is the third largest school district in New Jersey, with more than 28,400 students from preschool to 12th grade. 60 percent of the students are Hispanic, 30 percent are African-American, and 9 percent are of Caucasian, Middle Eastern or Asian descent, according to the district’s website.

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