Protesters descended Tuesday on Condit Elementary School in Claremont, tersely arguing over the construction-paper pilgrim and Native American costumes worn by kindergartners at a decades-old Thanksgiving tradition. Police were called to the school when tensions rose.
Officers also were monitoring Claremont Unified Supt. David Cash’s home after he received hate mail and told police that he feared for his safety.
“It’s been wild,” said one woman who worked at the school. She declined to give her name because she wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the school.
Cash and Condit Principal Tim Northrop did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.
For four decades, children at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools have taken annual turns dressing up and visiting each other to share a Thanksgiving feast. Controversy erupted after district officials last week decided to eliminate the Native American and pilgrim costumes from this year’s event after some parents complained that they were demeaning and stereotypical. Other parents were infuriated by the district’s modifications, saying that administrators had bowed to political correctness.
On Tuesday, some parents dressed their children in the hand-made headdresses, bonnets and fringed vests, and school officials did not force the students to remove them. Still, some parents vowed to keep their children home today, potentially costing the district state attendance funds.
Nearly two dozen protesters stationed themselves in front of the school, evenly split between costume supporters and opponents. The supporters set up a table with refreshments in front of the school sign, and several wore construction-paper headdresses. Foes stood about 40 feet away, carrying signs that said, “Don’t Celebrate Genocide.”
The discussion between the two groups grew so heated that school officials called police, and officials separated the protesters onto separate sidewalks, said Claremont Police Lt. Dennis Smith.
Meanwhile, the kindergartners frolicked nearby on the playground, Smith said.
“The kids were oblivious,” he said, “as they should be.”
Times staff writer Lorraine Wang contributed to this report.