Parent Questions St. Paul Public Schools About Hmong Holiday Celebrations

April 25, 2018 06:24 PM

Hmong students and their families were at the St. Paul Public Schools school board meeting Tuesday night - hoping to educate the board and public about their culture.

At least one parent has questioned the district about Hmong holiday celebrations, saying he feels some are religious in nature.

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And, the parent maintains, if you celebrate some - whether it's during the school day or on the weekend - you should celebrate all.

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"Nothing concerns me about it if it's an equal playing field for everybody," Brian Sanders said. "If it's during school, do them all during school. As long as it's equal, that's great. I think that's how it should be."

Hmong community members say Hmong New Year celebrations are not religious.

"For people who don't know what the Hmong New Year is about, they may think religion, but it's only a culture practice we do every year," said Song Vaj of the Hmong Community.

Sanders has written letters to school board members questioning certain celebrations like Native American Pow Wows and the Hmong New Year.

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He said he never meant to target a particular group.

Last year's Hmong New Year celebration cost a few thousand dollars in food and organization - a small percentage of the $1.5 million the district budgets for family and community engagement.

But many said if the celebration were to be taken away, it could change the makeup of a district that is 33 percent Asian.

"I would take my daughter and leave, and go find a school that would embrace my culture," parent Viviane Vang said. "St. Paul schools will lose a lot of children there if they don't embrace their cultures."

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St. Paul Public Schools issued a statement on the matter: 

"Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is a diverse district that is filled with families from around the world. We strive to respect all cultures and all students. The holiday observances policy has been in place for a number of years, originally written in 1974 and revised to its current form in 2008. 

The policy doesn't outright ban celebrations, but it provides clear direction from the Board of Education that programs and activities should be connected to learning activities. SPPS also encourages and supports learning about traditions and observances - in a way that is equitable and inclusive of all students.

Many schools then focus on seasons and cultures more generally to encourage students to learn about each other and the world around them."

The district added there are district-wide events like Somali Family Night, national African American parent involvement day, promotions and other cultural events throughout the year.

Many take place on weekends.

Credits

Jessica Miles

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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