Beacon City School District votes to rename 'Columbus Day' on school calendar
The Beacon City School District is changing the name of Columbus Day on all its calendars and documents.
The Beacon School Board was recently approached by a resident about concerns over Columbus Day. That one resident's concerns led the board to create a special six-person committee to figure out how the district should recognize the second Monday in October on district documents and calendars.
The special committee's members could not agree on a name. Public comment was split.
The school board went with a compromise at Monday night's board meeting.
After shooting down motions for alternative ideas, the board eventually approved changing "Columbus Day" to Indigenous Peoples' and Italian American Heritage Day."
"I don't think they should be changing names at all," said Scott Brown, a retired teacher who was visiting Beacon for the day. "Most of the time, it's more political than it is about the person himself."
Brown's friend and fellow retired teacher Rick Weber disagreed.
"I would like to see Columbus Day ended totally, not have a holiday at all," Weber said to Brown's astonishment, "and maybe give you Italian Americans a whole month if you want."
The school board entertained several name ideas to honor the indigenous people who were in North America before Christopher Columbus first arrived and were brutalized by European settlers who took their land.
The board also wanted to please people who saw the day as an occasion to celebrate Italian heritage in America.
"The way that we teach the history of this country has changed a lot. It's acknowledging what was done to indigenous people in this country," Beacon School Board President Meredith Heuer said ahead of Monday's vote. "That's why I was open to the change."
Some local advocates and educators of indigenous history said the new name was better, but were not entirely pleased, hoping the board would go further.
"It's not what we would have preferred," Paloma Wake, operations manager of the Forge Project and Beacon city council member. "While I appreciate the imperative to celebrate Italian heritage in America, it doesn't have to be done at the cost of the erasure of native peoples."
Much like the public input, the school board's decision on the change was not unanimous. Board member Anthony White motioned for a measure to label all days off from school as "holidays" leaving the district's families to observe the day how they want.
The motion did not receive a second, therefore it did not receive a vote by the full council.