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Pittsfield Resident Sues School Committee Over Indigenous Peoples Day
Staff Reports,
01:23AM / Monday, August 06, 2018
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A city resident has filed suit for $75,000 for alleged "pain, suffering and emotional distress" caused by the School Committee's decision to change the name of Columbus Day on the school calendar to Indigenous Peoples Day.
Alexander Blumin filed the lawsuit in Berkshire Superior Court against the entire School Committee except for Joshua Cutler, the city of Pittsfield, and Human Rights Commission Chairman Drew Herzig. Blumin argues that the School Committee used deceptive practices and broke state law that recommends schools recognize Columbus Day. He then contends Herzig attempted to do the same by proposing the city follow the School Committee's lead.
"By doing this lawsuit plaintiff obviously risks his future employment since nobody will be willing to hire troublemaker who sued local municipality. More than a month I can't sleep safely thinking maybe I should not do this -- why me? I am nobody. They can hurt me badly afterward. But I better die than live in fear," the lawsuit reads.
Blumin claims he experienced pain, suffering, and emotional distress over the issue. The lawsuit state he met with members of the Italian American community, who opposed the change, and they allegedly told him they were not interested in filing a lawsuit. He, however, believes they could not afford an attorney and didn't have the "courage to even talk about court."
"I am not Italian but I have a civil duty to defend elderly, weak and confused," Blumin wrote.
He claims the School Committee engaged in deceptive practices when it allowed School Committee member William Cameron to speak during the meeting in opposition to Columbus Day.
As for Herzig, Blumin wrote, "Herzig engaged in deceptive practice -- approach School Committee and general public by his extremist left propaganda enticing School Committee to violate M.G.L. and Mass constitution by asking to remove Columbus Day from school calendar."
He said Herzig then proposed for the rest of the city make the switch as well during the following Human Rights Commission. 
Blumin is asking the court to award him $75,000 from the School Committee and $10,000 from Herzig for the pain, suffering and emotional distress. He is asking the court to recommend that Mayor Linda Tyer remove Herzig from the Human Rights Commission; that Tyer reconsiders the employment of City Solicitor Richard Dohoney for allegedly failing to give legal advice to the School Committee; and to reverse the School Committee's decision to switch out Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day on the school calendar.
After sending a letter to city officials informing them of his intent to file a lawsuit, Superintendent Jason McCandless wrote back disagreeing with Blumin's assertion that the School Committee does not have the jurisdiction to make such a decision.
"In fact, the school calendar is absolutely theirs to approve as the school calendar falls under their policy responsibilities," McCandless wrote. 
McCandless highlighted that while the second Monday in October is recognized as a state holiday as Columbus Day, the law declaring such reads that the state is "recommending that it be observed by the people." It does not require the schools to celebrate Columbus Day. 
The superintendent noted that more than half of the United States do not recognize Columbus Day and that other holidays are celebrated under different names -- such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrated in New Hampshire as Civil Rights Day and in Idaho as Idaho Human Rights Day. Vermont, for example, does not celebrate Columbus Day and the last two years has proclaimed the federal holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day.
"In closing, please understand that this action pertains exclusively to the Pittsfield Public Schools academic calendar. The decision made by the committee does not change the way that Columbus is addressed in the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks nor does it change any way that the city of Pittsfield chooses to make or honor the day," McCandless said.
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