News & Politics

NJ School District Replaces Holidays on School Calendar With 'Day Off' After Italian Uprising

Spectators brave the rain along 5th Ave. during the annual Columbus Day Parade in New York Monday, Oct 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

In what has to be seen as one of the more cowardly acts recently taken by a school district, the Randolph Board of Education in New Jersey voted unanimously to remove the names of all holidays from the school calendar and replace them with “day off.”

The reason for the decision was the massive public outcry against changing the name of Columbus Day on the school calendar to “Indigenous Person’s Day” during a board meeting in May. “This change would strengthen Randolph’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and it would show our community that we embrace the history of all people,” said Susan DeVito, a member of the  Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee at the May board meeting.

But the Italian-American community was outraged. They crowded into the June 10 board meeting and let the board know exactly what they were thinking.

Tap Into Randolph:

It was an emotionally charged and chaotic meeting that saw numerous shouting interruptions, thunderous standing ovations, an impromptu “walk out” by a small group of people, and multiple calls for security to escort people out of the meeting.  No one was physically escorted out as they instead removed themselves.

Members of various Italian American organizations, including UNICO and the Knights of Columbus, came out to speak against the decision.  Senator Anthony Bucco also spoke at the meeting, asking the board to reconsider and reverse their decision.

In their eagerness to celebrate “inclusion,” the board excluded many of their constituents. And they did it without much thought.

Many of the speakers gave impassioned pleas and told personal stories, as they explained the meaning and importance of Columbus Day to Italian Americans, while others argued and debated the truth or falsehood of how some historians have painted Columbus in a negative light. The general sentiment from all revolved around the symbolism of Columbus representing a bridge to the new world and how the holiday is a way to recognize and honor contributions of Italian Americans to the United States.

The truth is, Italian-Americans have not always had an easy time of it in this country. Like the Irish and Germans before them, they were seen as “alien” and their religion, especially, caused problems.

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But like the Irish and Germans, they overcame the prejudice and discrimination to thrive in their adopted land. And Columbus was a powerful symbol of that striving.

Columbus is a ridiculously easy target to pick on largely because he was an unlovely human being who was enormously flawed. But if just one of his critics could accomplish what he did — had the courage he displayed — to achieve what most believed could not be achieved, we would be shocked.

The board decided to forestall future outbursts by simply taking all holiday names off the calendar and replace them with “day off.”

Finally, after some discussion, a motion was made to remove the names of all holidays that mention ethnic or religious groups, to not exclude or offend any other group.  Realizing that some groups are still “left out” and they cannot and do not recognize everyone, the board suddenly decided to vote on removing all holiday names and simply calling them “Day Off”.  Further clarity to the motion was made before the vote – that it would include all days off, including days such as Teachers Convention and Memorial Day.

What makes this decision so cowardly is that they not only backtracked on their original position to change the name of Columbus Day, they didn’t have the guts to stand up to the “inclusion” bullies and keep Columbus Day on the calendar. Not much in the way of Profiles in Courage.