Holiday guidelines spark controversy

William Robben, Junior Opinions Editior

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 On Dec. 5, The USD383 Committee for Diversity and Inclusion sent out a memo informing teachers in the USD383 school district to keep a balance when teaching about holidays, focusing on those that have a religious connection. The memo sparked controversy throughout the district causing some to question the committee’s intentions. 

It is the opinion of The Mentor Junior Editorial Board that it is not right for the students who believe in Christmas to have their beliefs censored. Every school in the district should remain neutral in their position on holidays that students choose or choose not to celebrate. In order for this to happen, schools must welcome all students to celebrate the holiday of their choice, including Christmas. 

The memo states that traditional Christmas symbols such as Santa Claus and elves can make those students who do not celebrate Christmas feel excluded. It also states that teachers should avoid worksheets that have Santa Claus, Rudolph, elves, stockings and Christmas trees. Students who don’t celebrate Christmas may feel excluded because the holiday that they celebrate is not part of the majority and they should be able to feel included in school. Yet the students who do not celebrate Christmas should not be excluded.

 The second paragraph of the memo instructs teachers to avoid songs that have a connection with God or Jesus. Because the school is funded by the government, the school can’t push religion onto students. As is stated in the first part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” This means that a teacher can’t tell a student to sing a song that has any religious tie to it. 

However, a student can choose if they want to sing a song that has a religious tie incorporated into it. That is also stated in the First Amendment, right after the line mentioned above: “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

 

 According to a story in the Dec. 11 edition of The Manhattan Mercury, superintendent of the USD383 Committee for Diversity and Inclusion Marvin Wade and committee chairwomen Susanne Glymour said the memo was intended to encourage teachers to balance teaching religious aspects of the holiday with celebrating the holiday.

  

The committee’s memo also encourages referencing other religious events such as Diwali, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as a way to include those students who feel excluded from Christmas.

This statement is in complete contradiction to what Wade and Glymour said they were trying to do. On one hand, they told the mercury that they want teachers to be conscious about teaching a holiday with a religious background– which, by definition, would also include all the examples from the non-Christian religions used as examples. On the other hand, the statement from the memo specifically wants to incorporate traditions that are tied to religions.

 

All students should feel included in any holiday they choose or choose not to celebrate. While the purpose of the memo was to inform teachers to keep a balance in their teachings about holidays, it unfortunately did not clearly state its purpose. The USD383 Committee for Diversity and Inclusion tried to inform teachers to keep a balance, but they could have found a better and clearer way to get their message across.