Zwarte Piet debate: Blackface use determined by school location

Today Sinterklaas is visiting schools across the Netherlands in celebration of his birthday. And as tradition dictates, he will be accompanied by his Pieten. What exactly these Pieten will look like differs widely by region, municipality and schools and seems to be mostly determined by what neighborhood the school is located in, NOS reports after speaking with some 30 school boards, covering about a thousand primary schools across the country.

Over half of the school boards told the broadcaster that they advised their schools to look at the composition of the neighborhood they're in when deciding what Piet should look like. According to these boards, schools and parents know best what is going on in the school and neighborhood. 

A number of schools issued a guideline, which mostly follows a ruling by the College of Human Rights. This states that Piet has to be changed within three years to lose all his stereotypical characteristics, such as the blackface makeup, red lips, frizzy hair and gold earrings. Most of these boards left how the guideline is interpreted up to the schools themselves. 

NOS found that most schools, especially outside the Randstad area, are sticking to the traditional blackface Zwarte Piet. Many school boards say that the Zwarte Piet debate is not really a big deal in their schools. "If there is no discussion, nothing has to be changed. Look at your surroundings and move with that" was the advice of Sichting Opmaat Tilburg.