Report: Zwarte Piet remains in holiday celebrations outside Randstad

Sinterklaas Amsterdam 2
Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter). (Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter))

Zwarte Piet is likely to remain a big part of the annual winter Sinterklaas celebrations outside of the Randstad region covering Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Den Haag, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday. Cities like Helmond, Leeuwarden and Maastricht have not yet come to a decision regarding the debated image of Zwarte Piet, and their governments have not put forward recommendations to schools.

The national arrival of Sinterklaas has put small town Meppel in the spotlight, where Christian schools provider PCBO is examining the issue. "Most parents say, 'Let Zwarte Piet remain black.' But Meppel is under a magnifying glass [because of the national celebration]," a PCBO spokesman told the newspaper. They plan to clarify their policy soon.

In Assen and Groningen, school boards are soon expected to release their own decisions about the character.

It is only natural that local governments in the bigger cities take the lead on the issue as the pressure is higher in those areas, with more diversity in population and stronger opinions about the character, according to Ad Veen of the PO Council. The Board of Public Education for the Zwolle and Regio districts has said that although sentiments have been taken into account, this has not yet lead to any adjustments.

Meanwhile, elementary school organisation SPO Utrecht said that the "racist" attributes of Zwarte Piet contravenes the discrimination policy of their classrooms, and have decided to ban the character. The board there said hurtful negative stereotypes have no place in Sinterklaas celebrations at schools. Schools in Den Haag also made a similar decision.

The chairman of the Catholic Schools Foundation in Utrecht said its best if schools determine how to deal with this issue themselves. To that end, they will re-evaluate the decision after December 5.

Officials in Amsterdam have also called on schools to revise their approach to Zwarte Piet, which traditionally has nappy black hair, dark skin, big red lips, gold hoop earrings, and is often portrayed as a fool.

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