Backlash after school district votes to rename Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus (WFSB File)

A West Hartford school voted this week to rename a national holiday.

The board voted to rename Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day.”

Now that the change has taken place, some residents wish they had a chance to weigh in.

About one month ago, a handful of parents and students raised the issue of renaming Columbus Day during a board meeting. While that group had some support, not everyone is on board with the change.

Over 600 students signed an online petition, a small percentage in a district of roughly 97,000 students.

“Seventy-seven percent of the letters were strongly in favor. Five were strongly against,” said Cheryl Greenberg, a board chairperson.

Board Chair Cheryl Greenberg talked about the response she received before this week’s vote.

Five members voted to rename Columbus Day, and two voted against the measure.

The holiday will now be called “Indigenous People’s Day” in the district-wide calendar going forward.

“Because really, all we can do is change the name. There’s nothing else really involved,” Greenberg said.

Now that the vote has taken place, there’s backlash from some residents who never had their voices heard.

“We’ve got more emails and phone calls against changing Columbus Day that we did before the meeting,” said Mark Zydanowicz, a board member.

Zydanowicz did not support the measure. He wishes more people voiced their opinion before the vote.

“Five people showed up to one meeting. Three adults and two children. Two of them happen to be the children of those adults and I just didn’t see the overwhelming support,” said Zydanowicz.

The effort started in Berkeley, California over 25 years ago. Zydanowicz said it feels a lot like erasing history.

“No founder is infallible. Every country in the world was taken over by somebody,” said Zydanowicz.

Greenberg said the found the response from those in support of the change compelling.

“we’re always going to hear Columbus’ voice. We’re always going to hear the colonists’ voice, but it’s important that we also hear Native American voices,” Greenberg said.

Eyewitness News spoke to a member of the West Hartford Knights of Columbus Organization who said that none of us would be here if it wasn’t for Columbus.

This is not the first time West Hartford schools took on a controversial name change. In 2015, the board voted to drop references to Native American mascots at its two high schools.

Copyright 2018 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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