Skip to comments.Ho-ho-no: Waterbury principal says no Santa Claus (Connecticut)
Posted on 12/03/2009 2:06:56 PM PST by Graybeard58
WATERBURY In the weeks leading up to Walsh Elementary School's Dec. 21 "winter celebration," staff will carefully avoid religious and secular symbols of Christmas such as Santa Claus and Christmas trees.
Walsh Principal Erik Brown has banned Christmas parties in classrooms and many decorations since arriving at the school five years ago. These, he said, can offend some students, who would be forced to leave while celebrations are ongoing.
"It is a state law that a public school can't knowingly exclude children," Brown said. "This is not a church. It's a school and it's a public school. I have to do things that include every child. So what we do is celebrate winter."
This struck a sour chord with Board of Education member Paul D'Angelo, who said he's received complaints from one teacher and one parent. He's requested School Superintendent David L. Snead to send a message to all staff that Christmas celebrations are allowed.
If Snead doesn't respond accordingly, D'Angelo says he'll ask the Board of Education to adopt a policy forbidding principals from stopping holiday celebrations.
"There seems to be a war specifically targeted against those of the Christian faith," D'Angelo said. "There's not much we can do about it in the world. But I can do whatever I can as a school board member to make sure it doesn't infest our schools."
D'Angelo is backed by board member John E. Theriault, who said he's asked Snead to intervene for two years. Both officials said many of Waterbury's 20 elementary schools put up Christmas ornaments and allow Christmas parties.
"I felt there was inequity," Theriault said. "If one school has Christmas parties for the kids, then others should too."
Attempts to reach Snead Tuesday and Wednesday were unsuccessful. He did, however, release a statement reminding staff that holiday festivals are allowed but cannot promote religion.
"As long as the line is not crossed between 'teaching' about a holiday and 'endorsing' the religion, this is acceptable, but no public school should promote any religious observance," Snead's memo reads.
District officials say each principal determines which observances are appropriate for their schools.
Brown said Tuesday that he's a bit mystified by the board complaints. He said no teacher or parent has spoken to him.
Waterbury Teachers Association President Donna Vignali said neither she nor union representatives at Walsh have heard any objections. "I don't know where that complaint came from," Vignali said.
Board of Education President Patrick J. Hayes Jr. also said he's not concerned about the handling of the holidays by Brown or any principal. All are careful to avoid promoting religion, he said.
There will be Christmas carols during Walsh's "Winter Celebration," along with Hanukkah songs and Kwanzaa songs, Brown said. As in previous years, Walsh will give presents to its students. Usually, these are practical, like warm clothing or school supplies.
Government institutions, like schools, are specifically forbidden from promoting religion by the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney Thomas Mooney, an expert on education law, said legal authorities take a look at three primary factors in determining whether practices cross the line do they advance religion or lead to religious entanglements? Or is there a secular purpose?
A Christmas tree is fine, as it's a cultural symbol of the season, Mooney said. But a Christian creche inside school is usually not appropriate. Mooney wrote "A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law." He also teaches at the University of Connecticut's School of Law and Neag School of Education.
In the absence of a legal prohibition against certain holiday symbols, it's up to school boards and principals to determine what is appropriate in their schools, Mooney said.
"There is a broad area of discretion," Mooney said. "You also have to think educationally about making school a welcoming place."
I live in a conservative area, (of Illinois of all places)
If I named the school, surely some liberal lurker would notify the A.C.L.U.
The warriors of winter give a cold, triumphant shout.
All that stays is dying, and all that lives is getting out.
Obviously they are not teaching people to actually READ the Constitution.
There truly is a Grinch Who Stole Christmas!
Everyone of these morons should be required to work Christmas day and the required extra pay be given directly to charity, so those who do belive can have the time with their family.
OK, I'll buy that. I wouldn't want to be forced to celebrate Eid.
..."So what we do is celebrate winter."
Screw you, hypocrite. Don't redefine Christmas into "celebrating winter". What the hell does that mean anyway? If you want to "celebrate winter" then go skiing; otherwise leave my christian holiday alone. And I'll call your school on Friday December 25 to make sure you're there because to you it's just another day.
You would only be “forced” to leave if you hate the celebrants so much, you wish they were dead. “Include every child”? Hmm, there’s going to be a problem with Drivers Ed and the Blind kids.
What about the kid whose father died shoveling snow?
Um, don’t pagan religions “celebrate” winter? I wonder if the principal lets the school celebrate Halloween?
He’s a hot mess.
What's to celebrate about "winter," in a place that isn't hot most of the time, anyway? Why not skip celebrations completely and use the school time to teach reading, writing, and math?
During non-school time, students could celebrate any and all occasions (including just being out of the idiot school) with their families, religious congregations, or neighborhoods.