By Suzanne Le Mignot

CHICAGO (CBS) — By many, Christopher Columbus is thought of as of a hero, with a holiday dedicated to the explorer, for discovering America.

But while many young people enjoyed the day off from school, some students at a Burbank high school are in class today, in protest. CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot explains, in this Original Report.

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American Studies teacher Andrew Terleckyj says he’s always taught students, there are two sides to history, when it comes to Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Terleckyj says Columbus’ development of the Western Hemisphere, came at a tremendous cost, to the indigenous population.

“It goes as extreme as, infants being fed to dogs. It goes extreme as women and children being killed. Hands being cut off, if workers did not work fast enough,” Terleckyi says.

Terleckyj has 30 students at Reavis High School in Burbank, who are went to school on Columbus Day in protest.

“You could go to anyone on the street almost and they’d go, ‘Really? That happened? And you’d be surprised,” student Matthew Castle says.

“We always learned about him as a hero, you know, but we didn’t learn the darker side,” student Alexander Espitia added.

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“If a group of juniors don’t say anything and we learn it, when will somebody actually say something and make a difference,” another student, Karla Palomino asks.

Terleckyj and the students have the support of school superiors like Reavis Humanities Division Chair, Erika Banick.

“If we can find a way to show them they can make change in this society, we want to do everything we can to support that,” she said.

Louis H. Rago, is the founder of the Italian-American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago. Rago is also the marshal for the city’s Columbus Day Parade.

“He never owned a slave. Traded a slave,” Rago says of Columbus. He adds historic documents support Columbus’ contributions to America. “He brought a new civilization, to an existing civilization.”

But in the end, Terleckyj says this: “The most important thing, is to talk about it and to start that conversation.”

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Attempts to reach out to the American Indian Center in Chicago for comment have not been answered.

Suzanne Le Mignot