CA School Spat Over Class Santa Trip Spurs Re-think of Holiday Celebrations

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The holiday season may be coming to a close, but schools continue to deal with revisiting policies related to celebrations in the classroom in the wake of a range of controversies.

Parents at a California elementary school staged a kindergartner walkout after an annual field trip to see Santa Claus was cancelled as a result of complaints from a Jewish mother.

About 30 kindergartners at the Sartorette Elementary School in San Jose were taken out of class by their parents to go see Santa Claus after the field trip was cancelled.  Angry parents said the Jewish mother, known only as Talia, was waging a “war on Christmas.”

The mother had written a letter to the school in an effort to keep her daughter from attending the field trip, which includes students writing letters to Santa Claus and delivering them before sitting on his lap.  She said that the two-day event asked students who were not Christian to participate in Christian traditions.  She added that the school was not teaching students about other religions.

Talia argued that the public school should respect all religions and beliefs during the holiday season, saying the issue was not one of religion, but one concerning inclusion.

“We can’t spend five days on just one culture. That’s fostering intolerance. When Christmas is given the same time, or less time, than American holidays, like Veterans Day, then kids don’t feel as American.”

As a result of receiving the letter, the school board decided to cancel the field trip, prompting other classroom parents to schedule the walkout.

When parents heard that Talia contacted the school board over the issue, Talia said they had called her a communist who did not want any holidays celebrated in school, with at least one parent accusing her of waging a “war on Christmas.”  Meanwhile, others complained that it was not fair to end a tradition that had been around for decades because one parent did not agree with it.

Talia fired back, saying that parents and children could celebrate the season however they saw fit outside of the public elementary school, reports Treva Bowdoin for The Inquistr.

“I’m not going around to anybody’s homes asking them not to celebrate Christmas. I’m not going to go to anyone’s church or private school, but in a public school we have to design curriculum to fit everybody.”

Vanessa Howe organized the walkout, saying that she disagreed with the decision made by school officials.  She argued that a speaker had come into her son’s classroom to discuss Hannukah with them, and that cancelling the field trip would be the same as if she had said she did not want the person to introduce her son to that.

Instead of attending the trip to see Santa Claus, Talia’s daughter’s class held their own holiday party and invited parents from eight different cultures to come and introduce students to their customs, writes Laurie Hanna for The Daily News.

School officials stated that they had not intended to offend anyone and that the school strives to include all cultures and beliefs.