Tom Tatem, a New Jersey father of four who created a petition demanding Randolph Township school board members resign over the removal of holiday names from the school calendar, argued on “Fox & Friends” on Monday that the Board of Education and superintendent have “failed” the students, parents, teachers and community.
The petition was created by Tatem on Friday and demands Randolph Township school board members and Superintendent Jen Fano “resign immediately,” saying they “clearly do not have the best interests of our children in anything they do” after they voted the day before to remove holidays from the official school calendar.
“It’s our nation. We’re celebrating the heritage and also the freedoms that those brave men and women fought for to give us those freedoms that we have to be on here debating this topic and everything so I can’t imagine anyone who would have any sort of problem with that,” Tatem said, referring to holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
He noted that on Memorial Day “we historically have our veterans come into classrooms to share their stories with our children, so how do you celebrate that if you can’t even call it that?”
The board voted to start listing holidays, including religious and national holidays such as Memorial Day and Thanksgiving, as “day off” on the school calendar after receiving backlash for renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day.
A number of school boards and locales across the United States have changed the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in an effort to commemorate Native Americans who lost their lives or livelihoods when the U.S. was colonized.
“If we don’t have anything on the calendar, we don’t have to have anyone [with] hurt feelings or anything like that,” Dorene Roche, one of the board members, told Fox 5.
“The overwhelming majority of the township population feels that they’ve [Randolph Township school board members] grossly overstepped their bounds, that they’re completely pushing their own personal, political ideologies,” Tatem told host Steve Doocy.
He noted that the removal of holiday names “is just the latest in a series of events where they [school board members] have completely pushed their agenda,” which he said includes the schools reopening plans following shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“None of this is being done with any input from the residents of the town, the taxpayers, the teachers or anyone else who is a stakeholder in this,” he said.
“We are very open and we want dialogue and input,” he added. “We understand that you vote for the people, but they’re not representing the people that voted for them.”
Board members did not immediately respond to inquiries from Fox News.
Randolph Township Schools Director of Communications and Digital Media, Matthew Pfouts, told Fox News that Superintendent Fano was not involved in the board’s vote.
“In partnership with the Randolph Township School district, the Board of Education has always been committed to supporting diversity and inclusion amongst our students, staff, and community,” Pfouts said in a statement. “We believe an effective partnership can only be accomplished between the schools and the community through collective input from all stakeholders. Involvement and communication with our constituents help us guide policy decisions/changes and improve district protocols.”
He added that the vote to rename Columbus Day was made “after careful consideration of concerns introduced by both proponents of the change as well as those in opposition to the change.”
“We agreed unanimously that the change would be both inclusive and equitable,” he said. “Although we have made these changes to the school district’s calendar, our decision to change the calendar titles will not impact the education of holidays as guided by the district’s curriculum.”
Doocy asked Tatem if he is worried that “these are the people in charge of your children’s future, their education and here they are spending all this time and energy, not necessarily talking about what kids are going to learn in school, but about what’s printed on a calendar.”
“Absolutely,” Tatem responded, noting that perhaps there could have been a debate on the topic at a later date and time.
“There are so many more pressing needs that need to be attended to,” he argued. “As a district, we’re still not back full time. The kids only go to school half days, which as a working parent [is] extremely difficult to help educate them and everyone is suffering.”
“The students are suffering emotionally and certainly academically as well,” Tatem continued.
As of Monday morning, Tatem’s petition has garnered more than 2,400 signatures.
Speaking on “Fox & Friends First” on Monday James Jacobi, a Randolph Township father of three, said parents are “in shock” and don’t understand the decision by the school board “at all.”
Jacobi argued that school board members have “proven” that they are “incapable of listening” and that they are not adhering to their responsibility as elected leaders to “represent the interests of the town and the folks that elected” them.
He called the move “a degrading insult to our American traditions” and “core values.”
Jacobi noted that he never thought something like this would happen in his neighborhood and warned others that “this radical theme that we have seen for the last 12 months occur across the country is coming to your neighborhood soon.”
Fox News’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.