A contentious vote by the Stamford Board of Education to eliminate Columbus Day and Veterans Day from the academic calendar has sparked intense backlash in the local community and pressure to walk back the decision.
A petition has already gathered over 15,000 signatures demanding the holidays be reinstated after the board’s shock move to scrap the days off starting next school year. Critics ranging from parents to veterans groups to the Catholic Church have all voiced anger over what they see as callous disregard for the group’s Columbus Day and Veterans Day honor.
Holidays Cut in Controversial Vote
The Stamford Board of Education in Connecticut set off outrage after voting 5-3 to remove Columbus Day and Veterans Day as recognized holidays on the academic calendar for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years. Students will no longer get those federal days off.
Board Member Joshua Esses introduced the surprise motion during Tuesday’s meeting, arguing shortening the year would be “better educationally” for pupils. While the holidays will still see some classroom material, critics quickly attacked the decision.
Columbus Day’s Complicated History
The vote scraps Columbus Day, held the second Monday of October to mark Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ pivotal 1492 sighting of the Americas. But the holiday has become polarizing. Critics highlight Columbus’ enslavement and brutalization of indigenous people.
In response, at least 130 cities and several states have renamed the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Board Member Esses had also suggested removing Muslim and Jewish holidays before dropping that idea after no colleagues supported the proposal.
Veterans Outraged at Erasure
Military veterans groups instantly voiced outrage at the board’s move to stop fully recognizing Veterans Day in schools. The holiday honors all American veterans, especially those killed in service.
Local vet Alfred Fusco called it a “gut punch.” While acknowledging Columbus’ darkness, he argued his 1492 voyage remains the most consequential event in human history. Eliminating Veterans Day disrespects those who sacrificed for the country, critics said.
Furious Backlash Explodes Online
The board’s shocking decision to scrap Columbus Day and Veterans Day instantly ignited fiery debates and outrage across social media platforms in the community. Many commenters voiced intense criticism, calling the calendar change “disgusting” and labeling it an insulting “slap in the face” to both veterans and Italian-American groups. Some parents pledged to still keep kids home on the holidays as an impromptu day off.
Others agreed with shortening the academic year but suggested alternative days off or compromise options. Some welcomed the move as reducing already ample school vacations. Still, more users cracked jokes about finally removing polarizing explorer Columbus Day. A few posters even called for boycotting classes on the scrapped holidays or non-violent protests until the board reverses the unpopular decision. With emotions running extraordinarily high, the raging online debates show the issue is far from settled.
Catholic Groups Upset At Calendar Change
Major Catholic organizations have added their voices to the chorus of criticism over removing Columbus Day and Veterans Day from the academic calendar. The local Bridgeport Catholic diocese released a sharp statement saying they were “greatly disturbed” not to be consulted before the holidays were cut.
As Columbus was a prominent Italian Catholic explorer, and veterans groups had many Catholic members, the Diocese accused the Board of Education of disrespecting large communities of the Catholic faith. They argued the body should have solicited wider public input before making a decision impacting groups who revere both Columbus’ exploration and deceased veterans.
Petition Demands Holiday Reversal
A fast-growing online petition started by opponents is pressuring the Board of Education to walk back its controversial decision on Columbus Day and Veterans Day. The petition on Change.org calls the holiday removal “anti-Italian discrimination.”
So far over 10,000 supporters have signed the appeal demanding the board reinstate both holidays at its next meeting. Energized petition organizers are threatening protests outside board members’ homes and the central office if no reversal happens.
Esses Digs In Over Backlash
Despite ballooning public pressure, Board Member Joshua Esses is digging in and defending his push to eliminate Columbus Day and Veterans Day from schools. He remains staunch that shorter years are “better educationally” for students.
Esses believes children can still learn the historical significance of Columbus’ explorations and American military veterans through in-class educational activities rather than empty days off. But many petitioners and parents disagree, seeing the move as an insulting erasure of Italian and veteran groups.
Columbus Statues Targeted
The intense debate over Columbus’ controversial legacy has sparked escalating vandalism against statues in his honor over the past few years. Following 2020’s racial justice protests, over 100 Columbus monuments across the country were damaged or torn down.
Critics see the statues as celebrating colonialism and cruelty rather than Columbus’ famous 1492 “discovery” of the Americas. But Italian-American groups argue destroying Columbus statues disrespects their Italian heritage and must be stopped.
Indigenous Groups Urge Compromise
Indigenous leaders have largely supported dropping Columbus Day, seeing Columbus as a symbol of genocide and exploitation of native peoples. Many cities renamed it Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
But most native activists oppose fully eliminating Veterans Day, wanting to honor military veterans alongside their heritage. They have proposed Stamford schools replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day while keeping Veterans Day to respect all groups.
Debate Promises to Intensify
The outrage over abandoning Columbus Day and Veterans Day shows no signs of cooling with critics promising escalating protests. A petition presses the Board of Education to revisit its vote.
But Board Member Joshua Esses refuses to budge, believing shortening academic years aids student learning. With angry groups threatening to picket members’ homes, the issue promises to dominate education politics in Stamford for months unless a compromise emerges.