Students and parents in Forth Worth, TX are outraged after the school district declared that Christmas celebrations – including visits from Santa Claus would no longer be allowed during the school day.
The Fort Worth Independent School District also banned students exchanging Christmas gifts after they determined that public schools could no longer “endorse or sponsor any religious activity or doctrine.”
A spokesman for the school district told Fox News & Commentary that “in an effort to be politically correct” teachers are not allowed to “post something that would foster or promote or impugn one doctrine or religion over another – or even give that impression.”
Seasonal decorations are still allowed but they have to comply with the district’s ban on decorations that are “religious in nature.” In other words, don’t expect to see a Nativity Scene on school grounds.
“We have people of different races and religions and to them this particular time of year may not be celebratory,” school district spokesman Clint Bond told Fox News. “Because of their religious beliefs, they may not choose to celebrate anything at this time of year.”
But what about students and teachers who do celebrate Christmas?
Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, said it’s time for Christians to rise up and put a stop to what he called “political correctness gone awry.”
“America is a Christian nation,” Jeffress told Fox News & Commentary. “It’s time for Americans to stand up and push back against this increasing encroachment upon our First Amendment rights.
He called on Christians in Fort Worth to protest the school district’s policy.
“They need to pack the next school board meeting with Christians demanding this policy be reversed,” Jeffress said.
But Bond said the district does not have an out-right ban on Santa Claus or Christmas celebrations – so long as they are done before or after school – and have an educational purpose.
“During the school day, when you are supposed to be teaching, you can’t have a formal party where Santa comes in and kids sit on Santa’s lap,” he said. “That’s not part of the instructional day. You can have class parties. They are permissible. We ask that teachers make them appropriate for the instructional purpose.”
But there’s a catch. Bond said the Santa visits and gift exchanges can only occur “before school starts, after school ends or on the evening or weekend.”
“Do it at the appropriate time,” he said. “Outside the instructional day.”
Parents like Brandon Brewer are outraged. He has three children at Ridglea Hills Elementary School.
“In their effort to be PC, they’ve achieved the absurd,” Brewer wrote in an e-mail to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “They’ve taken legality out of the equation insisting that holiday traditions (secular or religious) are suddenly too much of a distraction, and besides, if we let Santa in, maybe a Voodoo Witch Doctor will want to visit the classrooms, and gee, we’d have to let ‘em.”
Bond said the policy has been blown out of proportion and disputed the notion that they’ve “killed Santa” – arguing that the values of all students must be considered.
He blamed the controversy on a “cheap headline that was in the newspaper” that “unfortunately looks around the reality of the facts.”
He said many schools still have Santa art work on the walls and display Christmas trees “with stars on top.”
“We’re not killing off the Great Pumpkin,” he said. “We’re not killing off Valentine’s Day. We’re not killing off the Easter Bunny. Those holidays are welcome in our school – at the appropriate time.”
Jeffress said the district’s real agenda goes beyond Santa Claus.
“We all agree he is not the reason for the season,” he said. “However, it is a more insidious attempt to remove acknowledgement of Christmas from our mindset. The bottom line is Christmas is a day to remember Christ’s birth – and yes we live in a pluralistic society, but we were still founded as a Christian nation and I believe as Americans we have every right to exchange Christmas gifts and in the school district to celebrate Christmas.”