RANDOLPH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There is controversy in a New Jersey town.
Randolph Township‘s Board of Education has announced holidays will no longer be marked on school calendars — a decision that has sparked outrage from some members of the public, CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon reported Sunday.
“Don’t divide the town and divide our country and pit group against group,” Italian American One Voice Coalition executive board member Andre Dimino said.
Members of the Italian-American community gathered in Randolph on Sunday, speaking out over the BOE’s recent decision to remove the names of all holidays from the school calendar.
Instead, they’ll now simply be referred to as “days off.”
“It’s really a disgrace. The fact that they removed all holidays is really an insult to everyone,” Dimino said.
The decision comes after a tense meeting last week in which members of the public protested the board’s earlier move to change Columbus Day to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” After the meeting grew tense, the board voted unanimously to get rid of holidays on calendars altogether.
Chiara Ricupero grew up celebrating Columbus Day and said it means a lot to her family.
“We get to celebrate our culture and who we are, but also remember the discrimination and oppression that we faced, that we had to go through, to get to where we are,” the 19-year-old said.
The movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day has been around for decades, starting when advocates began pointing out that Columbus’ arrival to North America was followed by centuries of genocide against indigenous populations.
A growing number of states have made the switch already, as have some cities like Newark.
But state Sen. Anthony Bucco said though Christopher Columbus’ history may have some blemishes, he was an icon to Italian-Americans and his legacy deserves to be celebrated.
“Yes, there were some things, but that’s part of our culture and you have to teach the kids the good and the bad and see people grow and develop. Trying to make it vanilla is not what our country is about,” Bucco said.
A member of the Randolph school board, who did not want to go on camera, told CBS2 the decision to get rid of holidays on the calendar was made as a compromise and meant to be fair and equitable to all groups.
She added several other school districts in the area have similar mandates.
But those at the meeting said they want all holidays, including Columbus Day, to be put back on the calendar.
“We have nothing against indigenous people. We want to celebrate right along with them,” Dimino said.
They stress Indigenous Peoples’ Day also deserves to be recognized, but should be marked on another day.
The Italian American One Voice Coalition wants the BOE to reverse the decision within 30 days and create ethnic sensitivity training for staff and students. If it doesn’t happen, the group says it will consider suing the BOE.
CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report