In an effort to promote cultural “tolerance,” a Minnesota principal announced the school was banning all major holidays. However, as soon as parents found out, they made sure he knew how they feel about his position at the school.
For Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul, diversity is a main priority. According to state demographic data, the student body was roughly 52 percent Asian, 35 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic, and just 4 percent white. Additionally, more than half of all students were still learning English as a second language.
Prizing multiculturalism and inclusivity, principal Scott Masini decided that there had to be changes if the school was to welcome in their majority non-white student population. However, instead of incorporating humanities into the school curriculum, the eager principal had a different idea in mind.
According to the Star Tribune, principal Masini proudly announced that the school would be banning all major holidays, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween, as he believes they are exclusionary to non-white students. Masini informed parents that the elementary school would no longer celebrate, participate in, or even acknowledge the popular holidays.
“…my personal feeling is we need to find a way to honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of our student population. 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.”
Masini added that students would no longer be allowed to create cards or bring treats to school on the aforementioned holidays, which are typically reserved for classroom parties. However, there is no word on whether students will still be taught about the cultural and historical significance of the holidays.
“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,” a statement from St. Paul schools said.
Almost immediately, Masini and the school board received angry messages from parents on social media and calls to the school. However, the move reached a boiling point when parents began calling for Masini’s resignation, which led to a petition demanding his termination as principal.
“This man has deemed it necessary in the name of political correctness and demonizing anything that is not considered multi-cultural, to cancel all holidays in the St. Paul school district. Scott Masini should be fired immediately, as it is apparent that he is more concerned with political correctness than educating students,” the petition reads.
In response to the backlash, Masini tried to address the dissenters’ concerns. In an official statement, he acknowledged that he had possibly made a wrong decision but added that he plans to stick with the ban on all major holidays for the sake of those who choose not to celebrate.
The statement included comments from Masini: “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.”
Of course, the holiday ban isn’t the first major move by Masini to spark controversy. During a teacher training session, the principal reportedly showcased a picture of a KKK hood with the caption “When do you wear the hood?” Masini then had faculty members sit in silence for several minutes to “reflect” on the personal question.
Masini’s e-mail response read, “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. The image that was provided to you was completely taken out of context.”
In another instance, Masini also prohibited staff members from using the term “father-daughter dance,” which was a time-honored tradition at the school. Instead, he changed the name to “parent-daughter dance” in order to include children whose fathers could not participate.
Although Masini remained firm in his holiday ban, he faced a swath of parents who wanted to see him removed for allegedly promoting a political agenda above their children’s education. Masini has made it clear that diversity and inclusivity are top priorities when it comes to elementary education. However, it is unknown if the school’s reading levels, test scores, and passing grades are all in as good of a state.