At a time when Americans of many faiths – and even no faith – gear up to celebrate Christmas this year, a first-grade teacher in Sacramento Co., Calif., says she’s been ordered by her principal not to utter the word “Christmas” at school.
The 24-year education veteran, who wishes to keep her name and the school anonymous at this time, claims she and two fellow instructors were told that use of the word “Christmas” in the classroom or in written materials was now prohibited.
“She was dumbfounded!” says Karen Holgate of the Capitol Resource Institute, a pro-family public-policy center based in Sacramento. “This is the first time you can’t use the word.”
The ban apparently only affects teachers, not students. The instructor contacted CRI, to find out if the school had the right to prohibit its mention.
According to Holgate, the second-year principal’s “out of the blue” mandate was handed down Monday during the discussion with three first-grade teachers. One of them didn’t agree with the policy, but agreed to go along with it. Another stated that Christmas should not be discussed in class anyway.
But the third teacher was stunned by the pronouncement, as she’s been delivering a “Christmas around the world” program for more than two decades. The teacher also explains to children how Hanukkah and other holidays are celebrated in other nations.
“She’s so discouraged now,” says Holgate, “she doesn’t know if she wants to keep on teaching. … People need to stand up to all these wackos. It’s nuts!”
The CRI says California standards not only allow for the Bible and religious topics to be mentioned in the classroom, but teachers are encouraged to discuss their social and cultural relevance.
The San Juan Unified District, which serves over 50,000 students in 85 schools, is where the alleged Christmas ban is centered. Its director of communications, Deidra Powell, tells WorldNetDaily she’s heard nothing about the principal’s purported action, but doesn’t think the district’s policy on religious matters would preclude the mentioning of holidays.
“You can say ‘Christmas,’ you can say ‘Hanukkah,’” she stated. “It is nowhere written in any policy; I don’t think our board of education or superintendent would prohibit that.”
Powell says the policy is designed to protect all students and make them feel safe in their environment, adding “not everybody is a Christian. We’re using public funds, [so] we can’t endorse [Christmas].”
The United States Justice Foundation was requested by CRI to research the law on the matter, and responded with an open opinion stating any ban on using the word “Christmas” is an “abject violation” of the California Education Code.
“Christmas and other holidays are an integral part of this nation’s heritage and cultural identity,” writes litigation counsel Richard Ackerman. “Because of this fact, references to religious holidays, of cultural significance, have a protected place in the classroom. Schools are absolutely allowed to observe holidays and to reference the existence, date of, and cultural activities associated with the holiday.”
The teacher plans on showing the USJF opinion to the principal and fellow instructors today, and will take it to the district’s superintendent, if the campus remains a “no-Christmas zone.”
Crackdowns on Christmas have made national news elsewhere this week.
As WorldNetDaily reported Tuesday, a public-interest law firm filed suit in federal court alleging that a “Holiday Displays” policy for New York City public schools is discriminatory against the Christian religion.
In its suit, the Thomas More Law Center said the district’s policy “unlawfully discriminates against Christians” because it “prohibits the display of [Christian] Nativity scenes” in public schools during Christmas, while it “expressly permits and encourages” the display of the Jewish Menorah and the Islamic Star and Crescent during certain religious holidays and observances.
Meanwhile in Yonkers, N.Y., a superintendent who reportedly directed school officials to limit holiday decorations to generic season’s greetings, has now clarified his order.
According to the White Plains Journal News, interim Superintendent Angelo Petrone had issued a memo last week stating that “decorations in the schools should be limited to ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings.’”
Staff at 12 of 42 city schools tore down bulletin boards and scrapped lesson plans tied to the holidays based on what Petrone said was a misinterpretation of the previous memo, which also stated that it’s difficult to decorate buildings to accommodate all the different cultures and asked officials not to promote “any particular religious tenor.”
“My expectation was that they use common sense,” he said. “It did not mean holiday decorations needed to come down. I just wanted them to have sensitivity to the diversity in this district.”
Editor’s note: COMING THIS WEEKEND: Have a holly, “pagan” Christmas. As Christmas comes under attack in the news this week, WorldNetDaily takes an in-depth look at the holiday’s history, current trends, and why some Americans – even fundamentalist Christians – abstain from its celebration while others joyfully take part.