Principal Scott Masini of Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul has declared that since the students under his tutelage are “overwhelmingly nonwhite” he has decided to exclude any celebration of Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and St. Valentine’s Day. In a letter to parents, Masini wrote about the cancellation of the “dominant holidays”:
“My personal feeling is we need to find a way to honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of our student population.”
Masini added that this decision will remain in place “until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view.”
Other schools on St. Paul’s east side are joining the ban.
“One of the concerns that I have,” Masini wrote, “ … is whether or not this practice is encroaching on the educational opportunities of others and threatening the culture of tolerance and respect for all.”
“Because Saint Paul Public Schools is a diverse district that is filled with families from around the world we strive to respect all cultures and all students. We recognize that not every student celebrates or participates in some or all holidays. We have a board policy that discourages programs and festivities that celebrate observances unless they are required by law,” read a statement from St. Paul schools that was issued later.
Masini commented, “I’m struggling with this and 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 of the students we serve.”
In May 2015, Masini held in-service training for teachers in which he asked them to sit in silence for a few minutes to contemplate a picture of a hood used by the Ku Klux Klan. “The hope was that by doing the activity … that we could change any practices at our school that were unfair to students. I also thought we were ready to take this deep dive into a difficult conversation on race, white privilege, and practices that don’t serve all students,” Masini said in an email.
St. Paul’s schools have come under scrutiny of late due to complaints of out-of-control student behavior with teachers powerless to control it.
Masini admitted that the decision will be unpopular. This has been borne out by reactions noted in the local media on the part of parents.
School districts in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have joined in banning recognition of the holidays of which two are recognized by the government.
St. Paul public schools have been struggling with student discipline. The 2014-2015 school year was noted for incidents of assaults on teachers. One of the issues has been the inclusion of students identified with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD) into regular classrooms. Teachers claim that the switch was done without adequate resources or preparation.
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