In a recent controversial move, the Stamford, Connecticut school board has voted to remove both Veterans Day and Columbus Day holidays from the school calendar for the next two years.
This decision has sparked outrage among community members, specifically veterans who feel that their sacrifices and service are being disregarded. The decision was made in a 5-3 vote, with one board member absent, and has ignited a "calendar controversy" in the city.
The issue of the school calendar began when board member Joshua Esses proposed removing the holidays as a way to shorten the 181-day school year. However, the removal of these two specific holidays has been met with strong pushback from the community, causing many to label it as "cancel culture" and "woke." Some have even suggested that if the school board is going to remove these holidays, they might as well remove Washington's birthday, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as well.
One particular group voicing their dissent is the Italian-American service organization UNICO, as Columbus Day is a holiday that celebrates Italian heritage. Alfred Fusco, a veteran and founding member of the Stamford chapter of UNICO, has called the decision a "gut punch" and believes that it was made without any consideration for the significance of the holiday.
On the other hand, proponents of the decision argue that the holidays can still be acknowledged in the school curriculum, even if students are expected to attend class. In response to concerns about Columbus Day, board member Versha Munsi-South stated that students should not be given the day off as it provides a "mixed message." She pointed out that through their coursework, they have learned that Columbus is not the hero he was once portrayed to be.
Happening Now: A school board in Connecticut has voted to remove Veterans Day and Columbus Day from the school calendars. This decision came after it was proposed by one of the board members.
The board member Joshua Esses also proposed removing the second day of the Jewish… pic.twitter.com/MCBNt6hGgz
— 🇺🇸Travis🇺🇸 (@Travis_in_Flint) January 29, 2024
However, this contention has been met with opposition from board member Becky Hamman, who believes that Columbus should not be demonized because of political polarization. In essence, the argument over Columbus Day has continued to be a divisive issue, with many calling for the holiday to be replaced with Indigenous Peoples Day.
The state of Connecticut gives regional boards of education discretion in keeping schools open on federal holidays outside of December and January. This means that school districts have the authority to decide whether or not to observe holidays such as Veterans Day and Columbus Day. The Stamford Public Schools district has followed the lead of neighboring districts, which also keep schools open on these holidays.
While the district's spokesperson has stated that both Veterans Day and Columbus Day will still be "acknowledged" on the school calendar, there will be no scheduled day off for students. Schools will instead be required to hold a "suitable nonsectarian educational program" to observe the holiday. This program must be offered to students on days when school is in session.
This decision has added even more controversy, as some argue that it is a disservice to veterans, who deserve a designated day of recognition. However, the district has stated that they already hold events to honor veterans and will continue to do so on Veterans Day, even with schools in session. They have also assured that a similar program will be implemented to recognize Columbus Day.
As of now, the decision to remove two federal holidays from the school calendar remains in place for the next two years. However, with the ongoing debate and backlash from the community, it remains to be seen if the board will reconsider its decision and reinstate the holidays in the future. In the meantime, the issue of what holidays should be observed and celebrated in schools will continue to be a contentious topic.