If successful, Senate Bill S6747 would allow city school districts with a population of one million or more that also have an Irish-American population of at least 7.5 percent to declare St Patrick's Day a school holiday.
The introduction of the Bill came as Senator Avella joined the complaints against the decision by the Department of Education to hold parent-teacher conferences on March 17, as they did during the 250th annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day festivities in 2011.
Teachers and parents alike were disgruntled at having to attend the parent-teacher meetings on St Patrick's Day, leading to some people to petition Chancellor Carmen Farina to change the date.
Senator Avella (D-Queens) has gone one step further, arguing that not only should parent-teacher conferences not be held on March 17, but that no school should be held at all.
Avella believes that the Irish community in America is long overdue recognition for their main cultural holiday and the feast day should be granted the same status as the cultural and religious holidays of other nationalities. Chinese Americans were recently given holiday status for their lunar New Year.
Earlier this week the New York State Senator introduced a Bill similar in language to that of the Lunar New Year school holiday bill which was unanimously passed by the State Senate in 2015.
“It is really quite astounding that Saint Patrick’s Day is yet to be recognized as a school holiday in New York, where so many Irish immigrants originally settled and where so many of their descendants still live,” Senator Avella said, noting that New York State has the largest concentration of Irish people in the US at 12.9 percent and the Big Apple was also the home of the very first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1762.
“That parent-teacher conferences have twice been scheduled on this holiday is a testament to the lack of respect shown for this culturally iconic day and to the Irish-Americans that wish to observe it,” he continued.
“Let us extend the same courtesy to the Irish as we have to so many other cultural and religious groups and let students and teachers alike observe this holiday with their friends and family. It isn’t just time we do this, it is time past due.”
The Senator has been widely applauded for the Bill's introduction among the Irish community in New York, with many of those who petitioned Chancellor Farina welcoming the development.
The Emerald Isle Immigration Center, located in Queens and the Bronx, had previously written to the Chancellor on behalf of many in the Irish immigrant community who contacted them with concerns about the parent-teacher conferences destined to take place on the feast day, asking others with similar concerns to also petition for a change of date.
In response to Senator Avella's Bill, the Immigration Center commended “his leadership and his recognition of the historical importance of this cultural and religious holiday.”
“All immigrants in the City and State of New York are entitled to honor their heritage,” said Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center (EIIC) Siobhan Dennehy.
“Recognizing March 17th and the significance to millions of New Yorkers in celebrating the Feast Day of Patrick the Patron Saint of not only Ireland but The Archdiocese of NY will ensure that generations of students will acknowledge the cultural, spiritual, civic and educational contributions of the Irish to New York."
The Center also further condemned the continued practice taken by the Department of Education to hold conferences on March 17, drawing comparisons between this and the “No Irish Need Apply” notices displayed to discriminate against Irish workers in the mid-19th century.
They stated: “We sadly note that the majority of New York's schools systems, when it comes to heritage recognition, seem to echo the concluding line of many nativist ‘help wanted’ ads of the mid-19th century: when it comes to heritage recognition in our schools it is ‘Any nation or race except Irish’.”
Representatives from the Ancient Order of Hibernians have also voiced their support for the St. Patrick’s Day school holiday bill, reflecting on the shared history of immigration among ethnic groups within New York and throughout the US.
“The Irish came to America fleeing famine and oppression, often with little more than the clothes on their back,” said Neil F. Cosgrove, National Political Action Chair of the Ancient Order of Hibernians National Irish American Heritage Month Committee.
“Overcoming prejudice, they have risen through their own efforts to positively impact every aspect of American Society. This is a story that should resonate and be celebrated by all Americans; it is a history that should be shared with all children.”
If implemented, the bill will allow school districts of one million or more inhabitants with a 7.5 percent Irish/Irish-American population to establish St. Patrick’s Day as a school holiday in their district. The requirements to be met will use the year 2010 federal decennial census as the basis for calculation.
The Bill reads: “In 2014, the Governor approved legislation (Chapter 491) directing school districts to determine whether school session should be held on a day where a religious or cultural holiday would lead to a waste of educational resources due to significant absenteeism.
“Considering that a large Irish-American population in New York City is impacted by St. Patrick's Day, schools should be closed for the observance of this holiday, or if school is in session, a child's inability to attend school on this holiday should be disregarded.
You can view the Bill itself, voice your agreement or disagreement, follow its progress, or contact your local Senator about the bill here.
Do you think St. Patrick's Day should be a recognized school holiday in the US? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, below.