Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but the jolly old elf caused a very real controversy in San Jose, California.
Usually, the only Santa Claus drama that occurs at elementary schools involves kids who know the truth about where presents come from spoiling Santa for everyone else by informing their blissfully ignorant peers that their milk and cookies aren’t actually being used to maintain that round belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. However, angry parents are the ones who started fighting over Santa Claus at Sartorette Elementary School.
According to KNTV, some parents think that a Jewish mom was being a real Scrooge when she complained about a kindergarten class field trip to visit a coffee shop Santa. The mom was accused of firing shots in the so-called “War on Christmas,” and parents actually pulled their kids out of class to protest the Santa field trip cancellation.
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) December 19, 2015
KPIX 5 reports that the Santa Claus squabble started after a Jewish mother named Talia complained about Sartorette Elementary School’s annual Christmas field trip. Kindergartners in her child’s class were tasked with completing a “Dear Santa” assignment, which involved spending two days writing a letter to the fictional character. The kids’ efforts were rewarded with a chance to sit on the lap of a local coffee shop Santa.
Talia complained about the Santa field trip to the Sartorette school board, pointing out that the school was asking kids who might not be Christian to participate in a Christian tradition. According to Talia, the school was doing this while not teaching kids about other faiths’ religious practices.
“We need to teach about all the holidays,” Talia said.
Unfortunately for the Jewish mother, many Christian parents at her child’s school disagreed, and things got ugly when they learned that she had spoken to the school board about the Christmas field trip.
“I had some parents that called me a communist, that said that I didn’t want any holidays in the school,” Talia said. She also said that one parent accused her of waging a “war on Christmas.”
Others voiced their opinion that it’s not fair to do away with a decade-long tradition because one parent complains about it, but Talia pointed out that her daughter’s classmates and their parents would still be able to celebrate Christmas however they please outside of the public elementary school.
“I’m not going around to anybody’s homes asking them not to celebrate Christmas. I’m not going to go to anyone’s church or private school, but in a public school we have to design curriculum to fit everybody.”
Talia said that she would be against the school asking non-Jewish children to say blessings over a menorah, and she explained that she feels so strongly about keeping religious customs out of the classroom because of her family’s traumatic experience with a clash of faiths. According to Talia, her Jewish grandparents were beaten in Poland because of their religious beliefs. She’s fine with kids being taught about different religions, but she doesn’t think that kids should be asked to participate in customs related to any religion.
“This is not a Jewish issue for me,” Talia said. “It’s an inclusion issue. We can’t spend five days on just one culture. That’s fostering intolerance.”
Another parent sided with Talia by pointing out that celebrating a tradition of one religious group make those of different faiths feel left out, and Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C., agrees that Talia made the right move by complaining about the Santa field trip.
“You shouldn’t have a holiday experience that privileges just one particular religion.”
During a recent school board meeting, angry parents reportedly tried to get the school board to reverse its decision to cancel the Santa field trip. However, the board said that no actions could taken because the field trip wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda. Some parents then decided to take matters into their own hands by staging a walkout. On Friday, a group of about two dozen parents pulled their kids out of class at Sartorette Elementary and marched them down to the coffee shop to sit on Santa’s lap.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 20, 2015
Meanwhile, the class that Talia’s daughter is in partook in what may become a new school tradition. Parents of different faiths were asked to talk to the class about their religious customs, and the kids got to learn about the holiday traditions of eight different cultures.
Hopefully, the kids whose parents pulled them out of class aren’t afraid that they’ll end up on Santa’s naughty list for skipping school.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]