New Principal Eujin Jaela Kim of PS 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York is banning Santa Claus and the Pledge of Allegiance. She has changed Thanksgiving to the “Harvest Festival” and has replaced Christmas parties with “winter celebrations.”
Parents and teachers are dismayed.
“We definitely can’t say Christmas, nothing with Christmas on it, nothing with Santa,” PTA president Mimi Ferrer said administrators told her. “No angels. We can’t even have a star because it can represent a religious system, like the Star of David.”
When Susan Edelman of the New York Post called and emailed the 33-year-old Kim, she did not return either of the communications.
Last month, Assistant Principal Jose Chaparro sent a memo to the staff suggesting a “harvest festival instead of Thanksgiving or a winter celebration instead of a Christmas party.” He also suggested that the faculty and staff needed to “be sensitive of the diversity of our families. Not all children celebrate the same holidays,” especially since 95% of the 1,600 student population at PS 169 are Asian or Hispanic.
A recent directive from the city Department of Education said holiday symbols are permitted, such as Kinaras (candleholders for Kwanzaa), Christmas trees, the Islamic star-and-crescent, and Hanukkah menorahs and dreidels. Not permitted are displays that “depict images of deities, religious figures or religious texts.”
PS 169 Business Manager Johanna Bjorken clarified in a memo that Santa Claus was considered an “other religious figure.” However, a DOE official explained that Santa is allowed because of being a secular character.
Joseph Iorio, the former principal and longtime vice principal of PS169, recalled that Assemblyman Felix Ortiz visited the school many times as Santa. He added that he picked student leaders to lead the Pledge of Allegiance every Monday morning. When Kim took over as principal, the school-wide pledge stopped. A spokesman for the DOE said saying the pledge is done at the discretion of the classroom teacher.
The first time Kim did something noteworthy, according to school sources, was when she came on board as principal in May of 2014. She ordered teachers to get rid of clutter in their classrooms. She then took hundreds of books and hundreds of pounds of supplies to the gymnasium, where community members and parents were allowed to take what they wanted.
She stashed newly purchased reading books in the basement of the school because she preferred another curriculum. Kim bought seven flat-screen smart television that were worth $3,000 each, and she painted over or removed historic murals and hung the TVs in the auditorium. Ferrer said the TVs have never been used.
According to the Inquisitr, social media users have admitted the principal’s ban of holidays is justifiable, but banning the Pledge of Allegiance has raised concerns since the pledge has nothing to do with the holidays that were cited.
The Santa ban, coming at this time of year, is getting a considerable amount of attention, but Bethany Ramos, reporting for SheKnows, says the Pledge removal has more parents up in arms. She points out that there are also families who prefer to make the holiday surround the story of Jesus and Jewish families who celebrate Hannukah. Christmas is not celebrated by Muslim families, and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any holidays or birthdays.
In 1954, the “one nation under God” phrase was added to the Pledge of Allegiance by President Eisenhower. Prayer bans in public schools began in the 1960s. And then, the Pledge was declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in 2002 because of the “under God” phrase.
Ramos writes that celebrating our differences is a way to teach kids to respect diversity, and doing so is a valuable lesson for the next generation.