Published December 17, 2013
Christmas in Connecticut feels a little less Christmas-y in one high school after a teacher told students they could not decorate the classroom door with Santa Claus or Christmas trees.
“This is political correctness run amuck,” an outraged mom told me.
Her child attends Fairfield Ludlowe High School. The entire school is involved in a door decorating contest.
Students in her child’s class tossed out some ideas for a Christmas-themed door. One student suggested a Christmas tree and another student suggested a Santa Claus-inspired fireplace design. But both were rejected.
“She [the teacher] said no reference to Christmas at all can be on the decorations on the door,” the parent said. “My son was in disbelief and asked, ‘why can’t we decorate for Christmas?’”
That’s a great question. So I called Greg Hatzis, the headmaster at the public school.
He cited off a district-wide religion policy that states: “It is the policy of the Board of Education that no religious belief or non-belief will be promoted by the district or its employees and none will be disparaged.”
Hatzis said the teacher may have been misinformed about what is allowed and what is not allowed but he would not directly say whether or not classroom doors could be decorated with Christmas trees.
“There is room in the policy for classroom and school decorations but they should have no direct religious meaning,” he told me. “If a classroom were to display items of a religious nature, we require the teacher talk about them in a conversation related to diversity and that all religions and cultures are respected.”
So does that mean they promote the Keystone Pipeline on Earth Day? Do they celebrate lumberjacks on Arbor Day? And why does the school district have concerns about Christmas?
“The difficulty is that we want everyone to feel a part of the school community,” he said. “Anytime there is a preponderance of any particular holiday, you don’t want people to feel excluded. It’s really a lesson in respect. It’s a lesson in community.”
The headmaster said they really do want people to feel festive. But somehow I feel there’s a big “but” about to come next.
“We want people to be able to have a chance to celebrate, but just in a way that is not exclusionary,” he said.
The dilemma facing the school, he said, is determining what represents a religious holiday decoration and what does not.
“Something like a wreath or candy canes or holly have no direct religious meaning so they would be allowed under the district policy,” he said. "But others may say that a Christmas tree would not exist unless you were talking about Christmas and they make the leap to the religious observance.”
He said the school just wants to be “sensitive.”
“We don’t want somebody to be offended,” he said. ‘We try to make sure that everybody understands the need for respect and diversity.”
The parent who contacted me said it’s pretty clear what the school is doing.
“Christmas seems targeted for persecution,” she said. “If Hanukkah or Kwanzaa were targeted like that there would be such outrage. We’re not allowed to be outraged that Christmas is being taken out of the classroom.”
I like the way this mom thinks.
“It’s angering,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”
I figured I would give the headmaster one last chance to sort all this out. Does the school policy really ban Santa Claus and Christmas?
“It absolutely allows for decorations as long as they are not promoting a particular holiday,” he said.
But isn’t Christmas a particular holiday?
“It comes back to one’s personal perspective – and how much it is tied to religion,” the headmaster told me. “
So yes or no – are boys and girls allowed to decorate the classroom doors with Christmas trees?
“Christmas trees are allowed in the context of showing respect for everybody who’s viewing it,” he replied.
This is what happens when you allow the patchouli and granola crowd to teach our kids. And the sad part is the school district may be too dim-witted to understand that Christmas trees and Santa Claus have absolutely nothing to do with the true Reason for the Season.
I think I need a cup of egg nog. Better make it a double.