Celebrations of Valentine’s Day and the other “dominant holidays” are ending at one St. Paul elementary school, according to a letter from the principal to families.

Principal Scott Masini of Bruce Vento Elementary School, whose student body is overwhelmingly non-white, explained in the letter that “my personal feeling is we need to find a way to honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of our student population.”

With Valentine’s Day a little more than two weeks away, Masini noted, “I have come to the difficult decision to discontinue the celebration of the dominant holidays until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view.”

Masini said there will be no cards or treats brought to school to mark Valentine’s Day.

The letter listed the holidays that the school will no longer celebrate as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

“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, who has been with the district for nearly 20 years, acknowledged that shelving these celebrations “will be an unpopular decision with some of you. … Administration would be happy to meet with you to discuss any questions or concerns.”

School board policy regarding holidays, last revised in 2008, says that schools “shall discourage lavish programs and festivities arranged to celebrate holidays and other special days, and shall strive to eliminate them, if possible except where such observances are required by law (Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, and Veterans Day.)”

According to the latest state demographic data, the student body at Bruce Vento school is 52.3 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 35.4 percent black, 6.9 percent Hispanic, 4.3 percent white and 1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native. More than half of the students are learning English as a second language, the data show.

The district is one of the state’s largest and most ethnically diverse. As of October, its student body was 31.5 percent Asian American, 30.3 percent black, 22.5 percent white, 13.9 percent Hispanic and 1.82 percent American Indian, according to the district’s demographics web page. Among its 37,000 or so students, more than 100 languages and dialects are spoken, the web page added.


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