what are the laws for Xmas in public schools? - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-11-2008, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just put my dd in school after being homeschooled- she is 6 so she entered 1st grade. we are not christian-we do not celebrate Xmas or any other christian holiday. we are of another religion. I have nothing against any other religions but want to raise my kids following our religion. we do not believe in prosthelitizing.
when I put her in school I thought that the days of singing xmas carols and hanging xmas decor around the school were over and that I didn't have to worry about her feeling "different" but our school does just this. This is a public school in a smaller town just outside (20 miles away) of a big city. They are doing a "winter holiday" concert (sounds innocent enough) but I just found out they are singing "Oh Xmas Tree" and there is a xmas tree in the school office and around the school are tons of xmas decor and rudolphs and santas and even had the kids decorate santas in art class. They also had santa and mrs claus visit the school during the holiday workshop store sale (which all the kids went to during school hours). The kids wear reindeer headbands and talk about xmas all the time (according to my daughter one told her that her mother said something negative about {the religion we believe} which I won't repeat but was really hurtful and offensive to my daughter. she is feeling very much like an outsider. I feel so sad for her- the kids tease her about [her religion!]- they found out because the teacher was talking about something and my daughter raised her hand to tell the teacher she doesn't "do this" but rather "this" and he talked about the religion with the class (he is very nice and was perhaps trying to educate the kids)-but it gave them fuel for their teasing. I would never tell my daughter that if people aren't of our religion that they are bad people-I tell her there are many different kinds of people in the world, who believe different things and thats OK. Im guessing this does not go on in Church.
Ugh- I am so mad! I thought that they couldn't do xmas in schools anymore? No offense to anyone who celebrates xmas- but what happened to seperation of church and state? I can't change what the kids say but it sure doesn';t help when its all over the shcool for them to say "see"...
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:02 PM
 
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Christmas trees, santas, rudolphs, etc are NOT Christian symbols of Christmas. If they were plastering the nativity scene all over the school then it would be.

The christmas you've described is the generic Santa version leaving religion out.

I would go in & talk to her teacher about what the kids are saying so he can address it with the kids again.

FWIW you're probably going to have this same issue at Easter when they're doing Easter Bunnys, eggs, baskets, etc which again are NOT Christian symbols of Easter.

The Easter stuff & the christmas trees were originally Pagan symbols, but are generic non-denominational non-religious symbols now.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:03 PM
 
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Christmas trees, santas, rudolphs, etc are NOT Christian symbols of Christmas. If they were plastering the nativity scene all over the school then it would be.

The christmas you've described is the generic Santa version leaving religion out.

I would go in & talk to her teacher about what the kids are saying so he can address it with the kids again.

FWIW you're probably going to have this same issue at Easter when they're doing Easter Bunnys, eggs, baskets, etc which again are NOT Christian symbols of Easter.

The Easter stuff & the christmas trees were originally Pagan symbols, but are generic non-denominational non-religious symbols now.
precisely.

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Old 12-11-2008, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Christmas trees, santas, rudolphs, etc are NOT Christian symbols of Christmas. If they were plastering the nativity scene all over the school then it would be.

The christmas you've described is the generic Santa version leaving religion out.

I would go in & talk to her teacher about what the kids are saying so he can address it with the kids again.

FWIW you're probably going to have this same issue at Easter when they're doing Easter Bunnys, eggs, baskets, etc which again are NOT Christian symbols of Easter.

The Easter stuff & the christmas trees were originally Pagan symbols, but are generic non-denominational non-religious symbols now.
oh really? how can you say that when santa asks "what do you want for xmas little girl?"
I just heard on the bob duco(christian talk radio) show himself say that xmas trees are christian symbols now- they were used for pagan rituals but christians took it over and now use it for their holidays. so I guess it depends on who you talk to.

and by the way- what you are saying is that everything I said is perfectly legal within the laws of seperation of church and state?
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:07 PM
 
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In our school they don't do Christmas whole-hog but it's not absent. Other traditions are shared as appropriate. DS is learning about Las Posadas b/c there is a large Latin American population, and Pere Noel (I think that is right) because his assistant teacher is French. (Yes, I think both of those are related to Christmas.) Their winter project is on countries so religious holidays for each can be included if the child chooses. Not sure what else. There is a Jewish girl in his class, and a Muslim boy, so I will have to ask DS if they are sharing their winter traditions.

I would not accept any teasing. That falls under bullying and should be dealt with immediately.

I do prefer that all traditions, including religious ones, to be presented for everyone, rather than simply missing. ETA <=== That should say presented from everyone.

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Old 12-11-2008, 01:14 PM
 
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Of course Santa is a Christmas symbol! Maybe popularized, and maybe secularized, but definitely Christmas.

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Old 12-11-2008, 01:25 PM
 
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Last year, dd's school had a 'winter holiday concert'. There were definitely more Christmas (secular ones though) songs than ones from other traditions, though. They also posted kids' 'winter celebration' memories - because more kids celebrate Christmas than other holidays, there were more Christmas memories posted, and some of them involved going to church, the baby Jesus, etc. However, some kids wrote about Eid, Hanukkah, and so on as well, and they did stories and songs about these in class as well.

This year, there's no concert. Her grade is studying 'Celebrations' in social studies, and while they've been studying ones from many traditions, they've been doing a whole lot of Christmas, given the time of year and background of most of the kids. One kid brought in a tree, which they're decorating, and they're doing secret Santa. The teacher has read some Christmas stories aloud, including ones about the birth of Jesus. However, it is all situated within learning about 'celebrations' in general, and dd also brought in a dreidel to share....
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Last year, dd's school had a 'winter holiday concert'. There were definitely more Christmas (secular ones though) songs than ones from other traditions, though. They also posted kids' 'winter celebration' memories - because more kids celebrate Christmas than other holidays, there were more Christmas memories posted, and some of them involved going to church, the baby Jesus, etc. However, some kids wrote about Eid, Hanukkah, and so on as well, and they did stories and songs about these in class as well.

This year, there's no concert. Her grade is studying 'Celebrations' in social studies, and while they've been studying ones from many traditions, they've been doing a whole lot of Christmas, given the time of year and background of most of the kids. One kid brought in a tree, which they're decorating, and they're doing secret Santa. The teacher has read some Christmas stories aloud, including ones about the birth of Jesus. However, it is all situated within learning about 'celebrations' in general, and dd also brought in a dreidel to share....
I certainly wouldn't mind if it was used a s a teaching tool. which is what I thought.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Of course Santa is a Christmas symbol! Maybe popularized, and maybe secularized, but definitely Christmas.
yea i think so too.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:48 PM
 
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I think this is going to be an "issue" for you at most public schools. Most people celebrate Christmas, either in a religious way or in a more secular way. I guess I have just never understood having to change things to benefit one child when the majority of kids know what Santa is and do the whole Santa, Christmas tree thing at home. They have taken the "religious" items out of public schools as another poster stated. Do you take her out in public this time of year? The Salvation Army bell ringers wear Santa hats, there are Christmas trees in grocery stores, malls, department stores, etc. Your neighbors probably have lights up on their homes, reindeer in their front yards, etc.

If it is an issue for you, maybe you can pull her out for the weeks surrounding the holiday in order to avoid it as best you can.

Of course, NO CHILD should be made fun of for his or her beliefs. I certainly believe that this issue needs to be taken up with the teacher or principal. She should not feel as though other kids are laughing at her. However, I don't think it's reasonable to expect the school to remove Santa because you don't approve...
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:57 PM
 
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Christmas trees, santas, rudolphs, etc are NOT Christian symbols of Christmas. If they were plastering the nativity scene all over the school then it would be.

The christmas you've described is the generic Santa version leaving religion out.

FWIW you're probably going to have this same issue at Easter when they're doing Easter Bunnys, eggs, baskets, etc which again are NOT Christian symbols of Easter.

The Easter stuff & the christmas trees were originally Pagan symbols, but are generic non-denominational non-religious symbols now.
Yes, this is the case from most public schools' POV, but you will get vastly differing opinions from individual people on whether some or all of these are Christian or not or somewhere in between.

I can give many examples, but my own DH who is an atheist sees nothing wrong with Santa and Christmas trees, etc. But the Presbyterian church I went to as a kid does believe that some of these symbols have either Christian origins or have some tie in. It really varies.

Having said that, and someone correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe that Separation of Church and State can be a fully adequate defense of not having Santa in school for example. I think there is more to it. Not that I am trying to make an argument for these celebrations in schools, but just that it's not as simple as they are supposed to be separate. The doctrine is intended to protect religious tolerance. You can practice any you choose or none. And you can't establish a national religion.

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Old 12-11-2008, 02:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think this is going to be an "issue" for you at most public schools. Most people celebrate Christmas, either in a religious way or in a more secular way. I guess I have just never understood having to change things to benefit one child when the majority of kids know what Santa is and do the whole Santa, Christmas tree thing at home. They have taken the "religious" items out of public schools as another poster stated. Do you take her out in public this time of year? The Salvation Army bell ringers wear Santa hats, there are Christmas trees in grocery stores, malls, department stores, etc. Your neighbors probably have lights up on their homes, reindeer in their front yards, etc.

If it is an issue for you, maybe you can pull her out for the weeks surrounding the holiday in order to avoid it as best you can.

Of course, NO CHILD should be made fun of for his or her beliefs. I certainly believe that this issue needs to be taken up with the teacher or principal. She should not feel as though other kids are laughing at her. However, I don't think it's reasonable to expect the school to remove Santa because you don't approve...
We see lots of xmas all over the place, of couse! thats precisely my point- its everywehere- I don't need to shelter her- she sees all different kinds of people and knows about all different religions- Im not trying to hide anything from her.
I just thought school would be free and that it wouldn't be an issue and I definately didn't think people would be prejudice against us because of it. well my naivete has just been blown to bits,lol
I would love to hear how other people who don't celebrate xmas deal with this issue. thanks
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Old 12-11-2008, 02:23 PM
 
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I guess I have just never understood having to change things to benefit one child when the majority of kids know what Santa is and do the whole Santa, Christmas tree thing at home.
The First Amendment doesn't protect the majority; you don't need a law to protect what everybody wants... it's to protect the minority--that one child.

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Old 12-11-2008, 02:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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actually there are about 5 kids in the school (in different grades) that celebrate this religion and few others of other faiths...not just "one"
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Old 12-11-2008, 02:40 PM
 
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It may be partly because it's a smaller town? We are in a larger city but my stepkids are in a small town, and last year there was much nattering about the school Christmas concert (all the songs seemed to be carols), the fundraising sale the kids all went to during school hours to buy Christmas gifts, the Christmas crafts, and so on.

There is a Christmas tree in the school foyer even at our urban school, though.

I suggest talking to the school and seeking to sensitize them to these issues. If they're doing Christmas stuff, they should also be working in things that accord with other kids' backgrounds, and working them into regular conversation of the some families do this, some families do that, different families have different beliefs and traditions variety. If kids are set up to see that only the path of the majority is acknowledged and accepted, it sets them up to tease others. And specific teasing or bullying should be addressed immediately by the school, in no uncertain terms.
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Old 12-11-2008, 03:25 PM
 
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Our school had a holiday concert for K-1st graders. They sang three songs - 2 were about reindeer, I think. One was jingle bells. They also learned about Haunnakah and she came home with a dreidl and a construction paper menorrah. I think one of the Jewish mothers came into the classroom to share that tradition. We were asked in early December if we would like to come into the classroom to share our winter traditions, a craft or a food. She also has a "Kwanazza crown" but she couldn't remember what it was called. She did know the term Kwanzza. At Girl Scouts she learned about all of the above holidays plus Diwali.

Would you feel comfortable coming into the school to share your mid-winter traditions? I personally wouldn't think of it as proselytizing, but simply teaching about another tradition. Our kindy teacher is Christian and that's what she knows the most about. She depends upon and requests help from the parents to bring in the other traditions. I think the trend in schools is to be more inclusive of non-Christian holidays, rather than elmininate the celebrations.

I haven't noticed any decorations, but I'm pretty oblivious. DD said something about hanging snowflakes in the classroom, but menorahs or trees wouldn't surprise me either.

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Old 12-11-2008, 03:43 PM
 
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Christmas is a public Federal holiday - so I think public schools have the right to celebrate it as they celebrate other Federal holidays.
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Old 12-11-2008, 04:00 PM
 
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I feel so sad for her- the kids tease her about [her religion!]- they found out because the teacher was talking about something and my daughter raised her hand to tell the teacher she doesn't "do this" but rather "this" and he talked about the religion with the class (he is very nice and was perhaps trying to educate the kids)-but it gave them fuel for their teasing.
THIS needs to be dealt with immediately. The teacher should not be allowing this to continue. It should have been nipped in the bud immediately, but it doesn't sound like it was I'm sorry for your dd. I would talk to the teacher about it. If the teasing continues you need to go higher up. Continue raising heck until it stops.

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Old 12-11-2008, 04:19 PM
 
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Of course Santa is a Christmas symbol! Maybe popularized, and maybe secularized, but definitely Christmas.
I disagree. My dh is from a Muslim country and... obviously they do not celebrate Christmas... Santa is EVERYWHERE. It symbolizes the season, not the holiday.

On the flip side, my dh is not Muslim, but from an orthodox background... still, he got all of the Muslim holidays off from school even though he went to an orthodox school. The national holidays dictated when he had school breaks.

Not everyone has to celebrate it, but the unfortunate fact is that Christianity is the unofficial religion of the US. Yes, it sucks that those who are not Christian are faced with a lot of commercialization about it. I'm sure a lot of Christians hate how Christmas has turned into a marketing frenzy.

We don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. We are not Christian. We treat as we do Halloween (and we are not pagan either) and 4th of July. It's just another holiday. When you attach so much importance to making your own adult point, the kids kind of get lost in the cause. Just let it be.

As for proselytizing... what religion does not encourage this? Just curious.

The bullying is a completely separate issue.
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Old 12-11-2008, 04:35 PM
 
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We don't have laws, that I know of, just be respectful of children who may have different traditions. That wouldn't stop a teacher from wearing a reindeer sweater. Most teachers here do some Christmas activities and talk about other winter celebrations. The only laws we have that I k now of are fire safety laws that say you can't have Xmas lights or a tree that isn't sprayed with flame retardant. I've always tried to keep themed activities "wintery" rather than Xmas (snowmen, stories about hibernation, harvests, etc.)
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Old 12-11-2008, 04:51 PM
 
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. I guess I have just never understood having to change things to benefit one child when the majority of kids know what Santa is and do the whole Santa, Christmas tree thing at home. They have taken the "religious" items out of public schools as another poster stated. Do you take her out in public this time of year? The Salvation Army bell ringers wear Santa hats, there are Christmas trees in grocery stores, malls, department stores, etc. Your neighbors probably have lights up on their homes, reindeer in their front yards, etc.

.
The bolding is mine. I would gently suggest that it is time to understand.

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Old 12-11-2008, 05:00 PM
 
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Would you then like to gently understand how I would like my child to be able to sing Jingle Bells and Here comes Santa Clause at school if that is part of the "holiday" program? I am not in any way against any other holiday traditions being banished. I believe that they should all be incorporated and in our school plenty are. If you would like your traditions or believes incorporated into the classroom, why not ask that they are included? Why should your desire of banishing everything outweigh my desire to include them all?
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Old 12-11-2008, 05:04 PM
 
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I personally believe that the schools are more than capable of keeping things completely nonreligious during the winter season. Make snowmen and snowflake crafts. Sing Winter Wonderland. Incorporating Christmas crafts and songs, especially to the neglect of other religious traditions, is non-inclusive and potentially damaging to the children who don't celebrate those things and end up feeling like outsiders.

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Old 12-11-2008, 05:12 PM
 
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Of course Santa is a Christmas symbol! Maybe popularized, and maybe secularized, but definitely Christmas.
Christmas, yes. Christian, no.

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I'm sure a lot of Christians hate how Christmas has turned into a marketing frenzy.
Count me as one.

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Old 12-11-2008, 05:17 PM
 
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Our school stays strictly secular when it comes to Christmas. They are having a canned food drive and a pizza party to celebrate.

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Old 12-11-2008, 05:18 PM
 
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If you don't mind me asking...what is your religion?

Blessed with two BEAUTIFUL little girls: Kylie (09/06) and Maggie (4/09) :
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Old 12-11-2008, 05:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If you don't mind me asking...what is your religion?
Im sorry- I do mind you asking
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Old 12-11-2008, 05:29 PM
 
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Im sorry- I do mind you asking
Interesting attitude.
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Old 12-11-2008, 05:29 PM
 
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The First Amendment doesn't protect the majority; you don't need a law to protect what everybody wants... it's to protect the minority--that one child.
:

Christmas is a Christain holiday, period. Therefore anything associated with Christmas, becomes a de facto Christain symbol, i.e trees, santa, reindeer, etc... Any argument to the contrary is a rationalization so people can do what they want and not feel bad about offending those who have different religious traditions or no religion at all. I am frankly sick of "compulsory Christianity" in this culture. I feel terrible for those children who are made to feel different in the school where they should be welcomed and treated equally. Too bad most people and those who work in schools can't recognize their own bias. It is at the expense of children.
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Old 12-11-2008, 05:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your very honest replies. I realize my expectations were too high and at least I know now what other parents in the school may be feeling/thinking.
*Please take note that being in the majority is a really easy place to be and please try to imagine how it would feel for your child to be in the minority. Children so want to belong.

I have talked to the teacher about it and he agrees that we should bring other religious traditions/holidays into the classroom ("long over due") to balance it out. He is having the principal call me this afternoon.
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