No More Veterans Day: Connecticut School Faces Repercussions for Removing Important Holidays from the Holiday Calendar

By: Georgia | Published: Feb 04, 2024

In Stamford, Connecticut, the school board has made a significant decision to keep schools open on both Veterans Day and Columbus Day. This change will be effective for the next two school years.

The Stamford Advocate reports that students at Stamford public schools will no longer have these days off, marking a notable shift in the traditional holiday schedule observed in many other districts.

The Rationale Behind Removing Holidays from the Calendar

Board member Joshua Esses introduced the motion to remove these holidays from the school calendar. His rationale was that the school year extended too far into the summer, ending in mid-June.

View from the back of an elementary school classroom showing students sitting at desks facing a teacher who is standing by a blackboard with an equation written on it

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“We should make it shorter because it’s better educationally for our students,” Esses stated, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Proposal to Eliminate Religious Holidays Gains No Traction

In addition to federal holidays, Esses also suggested cutting the religious holidays Eid al-Fitr and the second day of Rosh Hashana, using the same justification.

A still life scene on a wooden desk featuring a stack of four hardcover books with a red apple on top, next to three colorful pencils laid horizontally, and a vertical stack of three toy blocks spelling out 'A', 'B', 'C' with each block a different color

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However, this motion did not receive any support, as reported by the Stamford Advocate. The focus remained on the adjustment of the federal holidays within the school calendar.

Educational Focus on Veterans Day and Columbus Day

Instead of observing these days as holidays, the plan is to incorporate educational content about Veterans Day and Columbus Day into the curriculum.

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The New York Post reports that instead, Veterans Day and Columbus Day would be acknowledged through lesson plans that teach students about the meaning of the days, as required by state law.

Veterans and Italian Americans Express Outrage

The decision by the board has been met with significant backlash, particularly from veterans and Italian Americans in the community, The New York Post reveals.

Uniformed service members in a parade carrying flags. They march in step on a city street, with onlookers watching from the sidewalks

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Veteran Alfred Fusco, a founding member of Stamford’s UNICO chapter, expressed his disappointment to ABC7: “It was a gut punch. It was terrible. It had no inclination.”

School District's Stance Amid Backlash

In response to the controversy, Stamford Public Schools defended its decision.

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A spokesperson told The New York Post, “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.” They also mentioned plans to develop programming about Columbus Day to recognize the federal holiday.


The Controversial Role of Columbus Day

Columbus Day, a day recognizing Christopher Columbus, has been a subject of national debate.

A vibrant scene from a parade with individuals, including children and adults, waving Italian flags. A large statue element resembling Columbus is visible with a backdrop of city buildings

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Board member Versha Munshi-South, speaking of a class lesson titled “Columbus: Hero or Villian?” at Dolan Middle School, told the Stamford Advocate, “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.”


Different Perspectives on Columbus Day Within the Board

Board member Becky Hamman, however, offered a contrasting view. She cautioned against painting Columbus as a villain due to political polarization.

A colorful illustration depicting Christopher Columbus and his crew upon their arrival in the New World

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As reported by the Stamford Advocate, she said, “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.” She later added, “I look at Columbus as a hero.”


Finalization of the Stamford School Calendars

The Stamford Board of Education approved the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school calendars with schools remaining open on Columbus Day and Veterans Day.

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“Several neighboring districts already keep schools open on Columbus Day and/or Veterans Day,” a spokesperson for Stamford Public Schools told Fox News.


Public Reaction: A Wide Range of Opinions

Responses from the public were diverse. Some, like Fusco, felt the decision was a disservice to veterans and the Italian community.

Numerous small American flags are planted in the grass at a veterans cemetery, with each flag marking a gravestone

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Social media reactions varied from support for fewer holidays to strong criticism of the decision. One social media user wrote, “Slap in the face to the Italian community and our veterans,” Newsweek reports.


Columbus Day's Dual Identity: Hero or Colonizer?

Columbus Day has evolved into a contentious topic. Celebrated by some as a day of discovery, it’s criticized by others who view Columbus as a colonizer responsible for enslaving and brutalizing Indigenous peoples. Consequently, several states and cities have opted to observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead.

An oil painting portrait of Christopher Columbus. He is depicted with a stern expression, wearing a black hat and a dark renaissance-era outfit

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Newsweek reports that despite this, Alfred Fusco emphasizes the importance of not “whitewashing” history. He said, “A lot of bad things happened in this country after the discovery, let’s not whitewash it. What happened on Oct. 12, 1492, was the most significant event in the history of the human race.”


Educational Emphasis on Historical Significance

This decision by the Stamford school board highlights a growing conversation about how schools should observe historical events and figures.

A bronze statue of Christopher Columbus is depicted with an outstretched arm pointing into the distance. He wears a cap and a cloak

Source: Wikimedia Commons

With plans to integrate educational content about these days into the school curriculum, Stamford Public Schools aims to provide students with a deeper understanding of the significance of these holidays, balancing observance with education, as per information from the Stamford Advocate.