Connecticut school district faces backlash after removing Columbus Day and Veterans Day from calendar

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – A Connecticut school district is receiving backlash after stripping both Columbus Day and Veterans Day from the school’s calendar following a vote from the…

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – A Connecticut school district is receiving backlash after stripping both Columbus Day and Veterans Day from the school’s calendar following a vote from the Board of Education (BOE), according to multiple reports.

Students at Stamford, Connecticut public schools will no longer be missing school due to the two U.S. holidays after the city’s BOE voted 5-3 to remove them from the calendar Jan. 25, according to the Stamford Advocate. While the proposal came as a surprise on the night of the vote, BOE member Joshua Esses made a motion to take the holidays off the school calendar for two years, the outlet reported.

Esses stated that the suggested 181-day school calendar was too long, with state law requiring students be in class 180 days, the Stamford Advocate reported. The board member originally proposed to remove two Muslim holidays, both Eid al-Fitr and the second day of Rosh Hashanah. However, the suggestion gathered no support from remaining board members, according to the outlet. 

Prior to the final decision from the board, the issue had been brought up during a meeting Jan. 9 where member Versha Munshi-South suggested removing Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Munshi-South claimed she couldn’t “imagine” “many students” who had been “observing Columbus Day” with family members, according to the outlet.

“I can’t imagine that we have many students on Columbus Day who are observing Columbus Day with their families,” Munshi-South stated, the Stamford Advocate reported. 

However, not all BOE members or local residents agreed with the decision for the school district. 

Veteran and founding member of the Stamford chapter of the nation’s largest Italian-American service organization UNICO, Alfred Fusco, called the decision a “gut punch,” according to ABC 7 NY. 

“It was a gut punch. It was terrible. It had no inclination,” Fusco said, according to the outlet. 

While Esses argued the two holidays could be observed through school curriculum, board member Becky Hamman had voiced her concerns over how Columbus was viewed by students. Hamman stated during the early January meeting that while there was already “polarization with curriculums” surrounding Columbus, there could be views of painting the historical figure “as a villain,” the Stamford Advocate reported.

“There’s a lot of polarization with curriculums, so to paint Columbus as a villain is because of the polarization and I think we can’t be doing that publicly,” Hamman stated before adding, “I look at Columbus as a hero.”

However, Munshi-South had stated she observed a Dolan Middle School class discussing whether Columbus was a “hero or villain,” according to the Stamford Advocate. Munshi-South claimed that due to students not finding the historical figure as a “hero,” it would be sending students a “mixed message” if they were to get the day of celebrating him.

“The students were using primary sources to investigate the true history of Columbus and I can tell you that, based on primary source research, no, they did not conclude that Columbus was a hero,” Munshi-South stated, according to the outlet. “I don’t think it makes sense to teach students one thing in class and then have Columbus Day off. It’s a mixed message for students.”

The school board has since addressed the controversy, defending the decision as well as noting that other schools in the area don’t observe the holidays either, according to the New York Post (NYP). 

“Stamford Public Schools already hosts many events in recognition of our local veterans, and we look forward to continuing that tradition on Veterans’ Day in 2024 and 2025,” a Stamford Public Schools spokesperson told the NYP. 

“In addition, our Teaching and Learning Department will be working to develop programming about Columbus Day that will be presented to students in recognition of that federal holiday.”