A Nebraska principal has come under fire for trying to police the way that Christmas spirit was expressed at the elementary school she managed. The New York Post reports that Jennifer Sinclair, the principal at Manchester Elementary School, has been put on leave because of the strict guidelines she gave to teachers for decorating classrooms. She banned decorations that are normally associated with Christmas like Santa, Christmas trees, and candy canes. According to the Post, she prohibited candy canes because she believed that they symbolized Jesus.
“Historically, the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus,” Sinclair’s memo reportedly read. “The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection,” she reportedly wrote. “This would also include different colored candy canes.” She justified the ban by claiming that she was trying not to make people who did not celebrate Christmas uncomfortable
Despite her restrictions, the principal did allow certain decorations, mostly non-denominational items like sleds, scarves, and characters from the Disney movie, Frozen.
“I feel uncomfortable that I have to get this specific, but for everyone’s comfort, I will,” the memo reportedly added.
The school district has said that Sinclair’s policy was a deviation from the official Christmas decorations regulations they instituted.
“Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and Easter eggs and bunnies are considered to be secular, seasonal symbols and may be displayed as teaching aids provided they do not disrupt the instructional program for students,” the official policy of the school district says.
WGN 9 Chicago said that Sinclair signed the memo as “The (Unintentional) Grinch who stole Christmas (from Manchester).” According to WGN, in the memo she said that she was trying to adhere to the rules of the school district and be “culturally sensitive.” But it looks like many thought she was a bit too restrictive with her rules.
When the Christian group Liberty Counsel learned about the memo, they claimed that her ban was discriminatory against Christians. They demanded that the ban be lifted because they thought it violated rights enshrined in the constitution.
“We sent a demand letter to the Elkhorn School District last Friday demanding a response by close of business this past Monday. The School District attorney responded and advised that the action of Principal Sinclair was contrary to school district policy,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel said in an interview with CNN, as reported by WGN.
According to The New York Post, Sinclair was placed on administrative leave on Thursday.