A few weeks ago we sent a memo to our principals about sensitivity to their students and communities during the holiday season. The memo was similar to the message we have sent for many years. A copy of the letter is below.
It is well settled that schools are prohibited “from conveying or attempting to convey a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.” However, in the words of the United States Supreme Court, “Music without sacred music, architecture minus the cathedral, and painting without the scriptural theme would be eccentric and incomplete.”
So, when teaching about holidays, it is absolutely appropriate to include instruction about Christmas — sing the songs and display and explain the symbols — but not to preach Christmas. Teaching that Christians believe that the Savior of the world was born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem may well fit into the curriculum. Teaching this, or the tenets of any other faith, as doctrine properly takes place in homes and churches. The people of our community are of many and varied beliefs. Schools must cultivate tolerance, appreciation and respect for one another.
Said otherwise, our public schools have the right, and perhaps even more, the responsibility, to teach about religion when meeting the objectives of their classes.
We expect that children will be singing Christmas music like “Silent Night,” Hanukkah music like the “Dreidel Song” and other religious and nonreligious music during this holiday season. We are confident that schools will make crafts and put up displays with various religious themes this month within the context of the curriculum.
We again encourage our employees to be sensitive to their communities and make instructional and activity decisions that will allow all of the public’s children to feel they have equal place within our public schools. This having been said, the word “Christmas” will be spoken, written, sung and otherwise used again, again and again in the Granite School District.