District holiday practice email causes controversy

Taryn Robinson, Junior Sports Editor

A memo distributed by teachers from the USD 383 Committee of Diversity and Inclusion earlier this month has created controversy, The memo gave instructions for making holiday activities non-denominational while explicitly instructing teachers to include minority religious practices. The document, which was distributed to district staff along with minutes to the Dec. 4 Board of Education meeting, was shared outside of that group by undisclosed sources, causing concern by community members as well as educators. Some teachers expressed both anger and confusion as to what they should implement in their classrooms.

“One of the commitments [the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion] made would be to try to help share information on the calendar, especially things like holidays [like] this [email] intended,” Dr. Marvin Wade, superintendent, said. “This [email] about December holidays, the intent was to just promote some thought with our staff about when you’re celebrating these things. What we want is balanced…we want everybody to be respected.” 

Wade along with the committee of Diversity and Inclusion wants everyone to feel included during the holidays at school. “We want everybody to feel like they’re part of our school system regardless of their age, their religion, or nationality,” Wade said.

“As we have celebrations in December, think about things like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah in addition to Christmas,” Wade said.

According to Wade, the email wasn’t thoroughly discussed at the Board of Education meeting before being sent.

“I can see where somebody might think ‘well this was part of the Board meeting,’ but it wasn’t that. The Board of Education really didn’t have anything to do with this piece,” Wade said.

Although this email caused a lot of confusion, many people “pull[ed] bits and pieces out of this,” Wade said. 

“In my opinion, there’s people that pull bits and pieces out of this, and use that to extrapolate their own interpretation of what we were trying to do, and put that on social media and got people, to me, unnecessarily worked up,” Wade said. “We’re not trying to denigrate Christmas, we’re not trying to push Christmas aside to replace it with other holidays, other religions, [or] anything like that. It’s just, be aware and be sensitive to the other kids in your classrooms, especially when we have families that when we’re celebrating something and they don’t believe in.” The wording in this document caused confusion, but that’s not exactly what the district intended to do. This document was a huge learning experience for the committee to explain more next time. 

“There was some confusion that some people thought that this was a mandate that came out from the Board of Education,” Wade said. “[The wording] added to [the confusion], no doubt about it. You know I wouldn’t soften that or deny in any way that it can be ordered differently and that’s important. It’s also a learning experience and, and [something] I’ve talked to people on the committee about.”