Columbus Day fight intensifies as NJ school board reverses course at contentious meeting

New Jersey

RANDOLPH, N.J. — The Randolph Board of Education voted Monday to rescind two previous votes and restore the Columbus Day holiday – by name – to the district calendar.

But the order of business involved the Board willingly subjecting itself to more than three hours of insults and demands from outraged Randolph residents.

“I respectfully urge you to step down. Thank you,” one resident said at the Monday meeting.

The outrage stems from the board’s initial decision back in May to rename the Columbus Day holiday “Indigenous People’s Day”.

Other municipalities across country have done the same, as society reconsiders the legacy of Christopher Columbus — the Italian who for decades was characterized in the history books as the noble explorer who discovered America.

But more recently, Columbus has been scrutinized and viewed instead as someone who enslaved and brutalized the indigenous peoples he encountered during his voyages.

School board members didn’t do themselves any favors with their detractors when they doubled down and subsequently announced all holidays would lose their names and simply be called “days off”.

According to one resident who stood at the mic and podium at the meeting, “You committed the ultimate act of discrimination by pitting Italian Americans against Native Americans.”

By Monday evening’s meeting, the crowd demanded the board’s resignation, and the restoration of Columbus Day to the school calendar.

“I want them to stop with the cancel culture. I want us to make sure that we are not seeing the first steps of critical race theory going into our schools, which I see as child abuse,” said Randolph resident Debbie Lissaur, speaking of the highly controversial yet oft-misunderstood academic concept that’s swept America in its debate over race and cancel culture.

Critical race theory is an almost 50-year old academic concept which states that racism is not just the result of individual bias, but is something that is embedded in the foundation of this country, its laws, and policies.

Among the dozens and dozens of residents who spoke, only a few actively voiced their support for the Board’s decision.

“With education, acceptance and diversity being the key, I see no reason why Columbus Day doesn’t become Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day,” one speaker said, drawing boos from the crowd. That suggestion mirror what New York City public schools have done to their calendar.

But for an overwhelming majority of the Italian American residents who spoke – Columbus Day was more than a holiday to them; it’s a point of cultural pride.

“Stripping the traditional days from the school calendar is not only insulting, it sends the wrong message to out students,” one resident said. “It lessens the meaning and distorts the history behind the specific events.”

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