In a rare moment of sanity, a school district in Omaha, Nebraska, placed a principal on administrative leave after she perhaps took the “separation of church and state” idea a little too seriously.
It was discovered that one Jennifer Sinclair, principal of Manchester Elementary School, issued an internal memo banning everything even remotely related to the Christmas holiday, including, of all things, candy canes, supposedly because they are in the shape of J’s (“for Jesus”), and the colors are representative of His blood and resurrection. Teachers were also banned from singing Christmas carols, putting up trees, or referring to reindeer, among other things.
Said memo, referenced below, mentions mandates from Elkhorn School District, and reminds teachers that they need to be sensitive to all religions and cultures. While the principal herself was removed from her post, it sounds like she was just following through with what she believed the district insisted upon. Whether or not she took it too far and is the only one to blame are points of contention.
Gifts to students
Students making gift for a loved one
Snowmen, snow women, snow people, snowflakes
Holidays Around the World – purposeful presentation of information to teach about different cultures
Scarves, boots, earmuffs, and hats
Olaf – Frozen
Santas or Christmas items (clipart) on worksheets
Christmas trees in classrooms
Elf on the Shelf – that’s Christmas-related
Singing Christmas Carols
Playing Christmas music
Sending a Scholastic book that is a Christmas book – that’s Christmas-related
Making a Christmas ornament as a gift – This assumes that the family has a Christmas tree which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of, “Well they can just hang it somewhere else.”
Candy Cane – that’s Christmas related. Historically, the shape is a “J” for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.
Red/Green items – traditional Christmas colors
Christmas videos/movies and/or characters from Christmas movies
When in doubt, ask yourself:
What is the clear instructional purpose of this?
Does this item or activity promote a certain belief or religious (sic)?
Ironically enough, in the same memo a fourth grade trip to see the Nutcracker is mentioned. I wonder if anyone told the principal that this is a Christmas-themed show?
The decision to remove Ms. Sinclair began with nonprofit group centered on Christian values and First Amendment rights, Liberty Counsel, which sent a strongly-worded letter to the district asserting that religious freedom was being infringed upon. They did not advocate for her removal; only for her compliance with what they felt was a more acceptable handling of winter holidays.
While the district policy alluded to by the principal in the full memo (both linked below) is not as harsh as the strict guidelines set forth by Ms. Sinclair to her faculty, the fact that a public school is indeed a secular institution cannot be ignored. It serves to educate the broader community, and while banning Rudolph and the colors red and green may seem a bit ridiculous, government entities are well within their rights to do so, so as to cater to the community as a whole, and not just one specific group, religious or otherwise. If you truly find this unfair, you may be ready to ask yourselves: is this really the best place to educate our children? What other, more serious things are being added to or removed from the curriculum, all in the name of political correctness?
A statement from Elkhorn School District spokesperson, Kara Perchal reads: “Elkhorn Public Schools District administration promptly addressed the issue at Manchester Elementary School regarding the memo that was sent by the principal to Manchester elementary staff. The memo does not reflect the policy of Elkhorn Public Schools regarding holiday symbols in the school. The district has since clarified expectations and provided further direction to staff in alignment with district policy. This issue was limited to Manchester Elementary School and did not arise at any other schools within the district.”
Ms. Sinclair had been in her first year as principal of Manchester Elementary, which serves over 540 students from Kindergarten through fifth grade in the Omaha area.