There is controversy and confusion in the town of Mesquite, NV after teachers and staff members at the local high school were told to stop saying, "Merry Christmas," according to an attorney with a conservative advocacy group.
Teachers at Virgin Valley High School are reportedly not allowed to post any religious Christmas decorations, and are prohibited from engaging in other Christmas activities as part of an agreement with the Nevada American Civil Liberties Union, according to Alliance Defense Fund attorney David Cortman.
He said the agreement was in response to the ACLU's threat of litigation. Read the letter the ADF sent to the high school.
"Employees, including teachers, can't even say the words, 'Merry Christmas,' in the school," Cortman told Fox News Radio. Students, however, are still permitted to use the traditional holiday greeting.
Virgin Valley's principal, Dave Wilson, called it a "huge miscommunication" and said there are holiday decorations around the school.
"Never did we have a directive that came out to teachers verbally, never did anything go out in a staff meeting," he told Fox News Radio. "Teachers and any individual are welcome to wish kids a merry Christmas on an individual basis. That's not a problem at all."
He said parents may have misconstrued a controversy involving the student council. They wanted to host a Christmas assembly. Students were also using the intercom system to invite their classmates to turn in slips for "Christmas" wishes.
"I directed that to be changed to a holiday assembly," Wilson told Fox News Radio. He also asked them to say "Holiday wishes" instead of "Christmas wishes."
"It is a holiday celebration," Wilson said. "Not necessarily a Christmas celebration."
The principal said he didn't want students to feel pressure "as far as being forced to celebrate it in any one given form."
Nevertheless, several dozen parents and students protested the alleged "Merry Christmas" ban at a rally outside the school.
"They took away prayer, now they're saying you can't say 'Merry Christmas,'" Narvin Ruth told the Mesquite Local News. "It's about time we took our rights back."
The newspaper wrote an editorial on the controversy, calling on the ACLU to "back off on this one, and allow our children to revel in the Christmas for as long as adolescence will allow it."
"Merry Christmas is a friendly greeting which acknowledges the season, and nothing more," the editorial read. "Christmas symbols pose no more danger of converting people to Christianity than images of Santa and Frosty leading to obesity."
Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada ACLU, told Fox News Radio they are not to blame and never threatened to sue the school.
"Saying Merry Christmas does not create a problem for us," he said. "There are certain people perhaps who want to make this into a conflict where personally I don't see where there is any need for conflict."
A spokeswoman for the Clark County School District released the following statement on Monday:
"The Clark County School District respects the diversity of our school communities and follows established parameters for public entities. Since holiday greetings were not conveyed with a public address system and in an assembly, some people may have assumed that all speech on campus is restricted," read a statement released by spokeswoman Cynthia Sell. "That is not true, as non-instructional time provides opportunities for people to interact."