School district wants to ditch over the top Santa decorations

HILLSBORO, OR (KTRK) -- A memo sent to staff members at the Hillsboro School District in Hillsboro, Oregon has stirred a controversy over whether images of Santa Claus should be welcomed in schools.

The memo reads, in part:

We will not be holding a door decorating contest this year. You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus.

Hillsboro School District spokeswoman Beth Graser told KATU as only sent to secondary principals as a reminder to be sensitive about the environments created in the school over the holiday season.

"It really went out as a notification to staff, not even parents, just to make sure they are being sensitive and thoughtful as they enter the holiday season," said Graser.

However, parents found out about the memo and complained, saying the school district had no right to sack Santa.

"I'm from that generation where we believe in Santa, and my kids believe in Santa, and they should be able to celebrate it," said one parent.

"If you're going to put a giant cross on the window that's one thing, but I think Santa Claus is more folklore and American history than a religious symbol at this point," said Jason Ramirez.

The school district blamed the backlash on local media coverage, saying the headline "Schools ban Santa" was misleading.

Graser added that there has been no policy change on the matter, and it was meant to ensure that a yearly door decorating contest didn't get out of hand.

"Quite honestly the 'competition' aspect meant that several of the decorations had gotten excessive," said Graser. "As a result, we had some staff members and visitors to our building indicate that they were uncomfortable and didn't feel welcome due to the overwhelming Christmas atmosphere that had been created."

She said public schools have a responsibility to ensure all students feel comfortable.

"We need to create inclusive and welcoming spaces for all of our students and realize that many of our students-because of their religion, culture, or other beliefs-do not feel comfortable (and in many cases may not be allowed by their parents) participating in activities that are holiday-based or religious in nature, or being surrounded by imagery that is a direct affront to them," she said.
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