Action group calls parents to boycott Sinterklaas school parties that feature Zwarte Piet

Sinterklaas and various Pieten at a school in Amsterdam, 5 December 2019
Sinterklaas and various Pieten at a school in Amsterdam, 5 December 2019NL TimesNL Times

This morning parents across the Netherlands will be bringing their kids to school to celebrate Sinterklaas, Packjesavond and the saint's imminent return to Spain. Foundation Nederland Wordt Beter is calling on parents to keep their children at home if their school's party still features blackface Zwarte Piet.

The foundation points out that the Children's Ombudsman and others spoke out against Zwarte Piet, calling the blackface character in violation of children's rights. "As parents and educators, we have the pedagogical responsibility to offer children safety and protection against harmful stereotypes. All Dutch children grow up together and in our opinion deserve a national children's party that does not discriminate or exclude anyone and for which no one should be ashamed", Nederland Wordt Beter said on Facebook. 

Nederland Wordt Beter acknowledges that the Piet character has undergone many changes in the past, and expects these changes to continue. "But this does not happen automatically, not if we as parents and educators do not ensure that all children can enjoy a racism-free Sinterklaas tradition", the foundation said. "That is why we appeal to all parents to keep their children at home on December 5, in order to speed up a Zwarte Piet free environment at all schools in the Netherlands."

The foundation warns that keeping your child home could mean a visit from the truancy officer, which could result in a fine. They ask parents who are fined to contact them. "As a foundation we want to accommodate the parents. We will challenge the fine together with our lawyers. If the fine still needs to be paid, we will cover the costs for parents who cannot fully or partially afford the fine."

Nederland Wordt Beter also advises parents who decide to keep their kids at home, to do something fun with them, so that they don't feel like they're being punished or missing out.