Rockaway Township School District reinstates Columbus Day following community backlash

The Rockaway Township Board of Education has reinstated Columbus Day after removing it from the school calendar.

News 12 Staff

Nov 2, 2021, 2:36 AM

Updated 904 days ago

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The Rockaway Township Board of Education has reinstated Columbus Day after removing it from the school calendar.
School officials made the change at the last Board of Education meeting following pushback from the community. The board previously voted to replace Columbus Day on the calendar with Indigenous Peoples' Day.
“I don’t think it’s worth going to war for. The idea that we would have serious arguments and fighting at a local school district seems to me quite sad,” says Camilla Townsend, history professor at Rutgers University.
Townsend specializes in Native American studies. She has been following the controversy surrounding Christopher Columbus over the last few years. Many municipalities, schools and institutions have removed Columbus’ name and have taken down statues, citing the explorer’s treatment of Native Americans.
New Jersey’s Italian American community has been fighting against the movement, saying that taking down Columbus’ name and image is an attack on their history and heritage.
“That if we rename the Columbus Day holiday Indigenous Peoples' Day in the interest of restoring dignity to indigenous people, that somehow white Americans, or particularly Italian Americans, will lose in that shift as it’s made,” Townsend says.
Townsend says that this doesn’t have to happen, and while she thinks that indigenous people should have a dedicated holiday, it doesn’t necessarily have to replace Columbus Day.
“We could have two holidays and talk about both kinds of history, no reason not to. I think if more people understood being more inclusive and more welcoming in this country, literally and figuratively, we all stand to benefit,” she says.
The Rockaway Township school calendar for the 2022-2023 has not yet been created, so it is not known if there will be a separate day to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day. The only thing for certain is that Columbus Day will be back on the calendar next October.


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