Tuesday, February 2, 2016

St. Paul School Bans Valentine's Day Celebration

                 The principal of Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota, recently announced to staff members that the school is banning celebration of all “dominant holidays,” including Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is being done in an effort to strive for more cultural sensitivity towards the school’s largely non-white student body. The announcement was leaked on social media before parents were notified.
                Many schools around the country are pondering similar moves as student bodies in many areas are rapidly becoming more diverse.
                Scott Masini, the principal of Vento Elementary, addressed a letter to students’ families in which he stated, “My personal feeling is we need to find a way to honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of our student population.” Which ones are those, Scott? Arbor Day, Earth Day and International Peace Day? Certainly not Labor Day anymore.
                Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving aren’t inclusive? Really? You can be certain Independence Day, Flag Day, and Veteran’s Day are out. President’s Day will be gone unless replaced by President Obama Day. Columbus Day and Pearl Harbor Day have already been given the boot. Constitution Day? Giggle, just kidding.
                Masini continues in his missive, “I don’t know what the right answer is, but, what I do know is celebrating some holidays and not others is not inclusive of all the students we serve.” The letter appeared Wednesday evening, January 27th, on an invitation-only Facebook page started by parents two years ago in connection with teacher contract talks.
                School board policy “discourages programs and festivities that celebrate observances” unless mandated by law, according to a St. Paul Public Schools statement. Like Martin Luther King Day, perhaps?
                Numerous schools around the U.S. have already eliminated Halloween celebrations because of concerns for student inclusivity and to prevent any group from being offended. The trend around the Twin Cities and other metro areas is towards dispensing with specific holiday celebrations and towards having “seasonal” ones. Wayzata Public Schools no longer observe specific holidays and only engage in a few very generic celebrations. More and more schools around the nation are having “harvest” parties around Halloween and “Winter” parties in place of Christmas or New Year’s observances. Easter is verboten in many districts, though some have a spring party. (Do other countries stop acknowledging/ celebrating their traditional holidays if a bunch of Americans move in? Do we expect them to?).
                Obviously, there will be no acknowledgement of Mother’s or Father’s Days going forward, though there will likely soon be an “All-Gender” celebration. Is Groundhog’s Day okay for schools to celebrate? I’m not sure if there are groundhog’s in the Middle East or not. And the “hog” part of the animal’s name could prove problematic.
                Thankfully, our schools are showing some heart and dispensing with Valentine’s Day. But I know of one holiday that should be celebrated- with ever more vigor, pomp and ceremony- in all our public schools. April Fool’s Day.

                Yes, All Fool’s Day. Appropriate and inclusive, no?
P.S.: On February 10th, 2016, Iran announced it was following the Bruce Vento school's lead and banned all "decadent" Valentine's day celebrations. 

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