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Southampton school calendar doesn’t name religious holidays

An exterior of Southampton High School on Narrow

An exterior of Southampton High School on Narrow Lane in Southampton on Sept. 19, 2013. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Southampton school board voted Tuesday to approve a calendar that doesn’t officially observe Columbus Day or any religious holiday.

Students will not have school on holidays such as Rosh Hashana, Easter and Columbus Day, but the 2017-2018 school calendar will not identify the holidays by name.

Other holidays, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Labor Day, are recognized on the calendar.

Last year, the school board approved a calendar that did not name any holidays after about 100 people attended a March school board meeting to debate changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.

Aiyana Smith, a member of the Shinnecock Nation whose daughter attends Southampton High School, said she would have wanted the day to be recognized as “Day of the People” to celebrate everyone involved in America’s founding, including Native Americans and slaves.

“I’m not OK with them not being able to make a decision,” Smith said Wednesday of the school board. “They just swept it under the rug.”

Smith’s daughter, Nashota Williams, was one of the first people to push for changing the name after her seventh-grade history class found Columbus guilty of directly and indirectly causing the deaths of thousands of Native Americans. Williams is now in the ninth grade.

In March, opponents of the name change said they wanted to keep Columbus Day as a day to honor Italian achievements and were open to having another day be Indigenous People’s Day.

At Tuesday’s meeting, none of the 10 people in attendance spoke about the calendar.

The calendar initially listed Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, as the only named religious holiday, but board members removed the name from the calendar.

“I thought the idea was to be as culturally sensitive as we possibly can be but without getting” in the middle of a cultural debate, school board trustee Andy Brindle said.

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