Italian American groups express concern Toms River students will attend class on Columbus Day

Is there a Columbus Day controversy in the Toms River School District? The school superintendent says no. But some Italian American groups are not buying it and are making their voices heard.

News 12 Staff

Sep 21, 2022, 10:10 AM

Updated 629 days ago

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Is there a Columbus Day controversy in the Toms River School District? The school superintendent says no. But some Italian American groups are not buying it and are making their voices heard.
The controversy stems from the fact that Toms River students will have class on Columbus Day. This was not always the case in recent years.
The district’s faculty and staff worked on that day - it was only the students who were off. School officials say it only made sense to bring the students back in to help shorten the school calendar.
Toms River has a large Italian American population. Some activists say that they believe the district changed the calendar as a subtle way to avoid some of the growing national controversies about Christopher Columbus and his actions with indigenous people.
Superintendent Michael Citta says that this is not the case. He says that the schools plan to teach about Columbus and the contributions Italian immigrants have made to the United States.
He says that the lessons were created, “with Italian American organizations in New Jersey to get out a common message about what Italian Americans have done for our country and our local communities and we celebrate those things on that day. So, we didn’t cancel Columbus Day.”
But Italian American groups aren’t buying this answer. Many showed up at Wednesday night’s school board meeting to express their anger and frustration.
“Why does it have to be Columbus Day that this is done? It’s an insult to Italian Americans to obliterate a holiday. And what does it tell the students? That Columbus is not really a great holiday,” says Andrew Dimino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition.
Dimino’s group is suing the town of West Orange for taking down its Columbus statue. The town called it a symbol of hate and oppression.
The Italian American One Voice Coalition helped influence the school calendar in other districts. Randolph ditched Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day, then got rid of all holidays and then put them all back.


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