Holidays in Schools

Dec 05, 2013

An unfortunate misunderstanding regarding an email that was sent by a room mom has unfairly portrayed a school and the Frisco ISD as having violated the “Merry Christmas Law.”  This is simply incorrect.

The email being referenced was not an official PTA email nor was the school aware of it being sent. The email that was sent by the room mom was sent two weeks before the party planning meeting had even been held. At the party planning meeting held on November 19, prior to any knowledge of the email, the school leaders went over the new law as part of the meeting. Please understand, there has never been a ban on what is worn, what is said, or what is brought to the party (as long as they do not violate the “Limitations on Content” prohibited by policy FNAA -obscene, vulgar, inappropriate for the age, etc.). The new law is consistent with the manner in which holiday parties have been handled by the District in the past and in line with state and federal law.

In that, schools must remain neutral and not show favor regarding one religious belief over another; we can teach about cultures, religions and religious observances and holidays but we cannot celebrate a religious holiday.

In regard to the use of religious symbols, such as a menorah or a nativity scene, these should be used as examples of cultural or religious heritage.

In regard to secular symbols, we believe that when displaying them schools should know their community.  

In regard to the parties, this is what FISD has always said: 

  • We encourage room parents/PTA to be mindful of the different religious beliefs represented in our schools. Frisco ISD hopes to create an environment where all children feel included, not excluded.  
  • Individuals are free to call the winter holiday party whatever they want - holiday party, winter party, Christmas party, etc. However, the District will not label the winter holiday parties as “Christmas” parties.  
  • Individual parents and /or students may, but are not requested by the district to, bring items to the parties that say “Christmas,” “Merry Christmas,” or depict a religious picture or saying (regardless of the particular religion). If they desire to bring something red or green, even if it does not comply with the party theme, they are welcome to do so.  

For those interested, this is the official wording of the new law -  

       In education code Section 29.920 Winter Celebrations

       A school district may educate students about the history of traditional winter  
      
       celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings

       regarding the celebrations, including

              1)      “Merry Christmas”;

              2)      “Happy Hanukkah”; and

              3)       “happy holidays.”

       Except as provided by Subsection c), a school district may display on school     
       property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, 
       including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas
       tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of:

              1)      more than one religion;  or

              2)      one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.

       c) A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message 
       that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.

       Enacted by Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., ch. 236 (H.B. 308)

When the email was forwarded to Mr. Fallon stating no red or green or Christmas trees and no reference to Christmas or another religious holiday, he sent a letter to our Superintendent regarding the law. Our Superintendent called him and assured him these were not our rules. We are still unsure of why the campus and District’s position was misunderstood and why there is the feeling that there is some sort of ban of items or greetings regarding the winter holiday parties at that school. 

When in our schools and offices, you will see a variety of decorations – you will see Christmas Trees at some, you will see a winter wonderland theme at others, you may even see staff wearing Santa hats. Yesterday the District hosted a senior citizens luncheon and students performed a lovely concert with Christmas and holiday tunes. If you look at the front of our website at the calendar of events this week you will see the following –

We are proud that FISD has a very diverse student population and we do try to approach the holidays in an inclusive and respectful manner, but Christmas is not ignored. As detailed above, the FISD is compliant with state and federal law.  We hope there is no further misunderstanding in this regard.  During this holiday season, we also hope that all will reflect on how blessed we are to live in a nation where we are free to worship as we see fit, to speak freely and express our opinions, have the freedom to vote for those who represent us in office and where all have equal access to educational opportunities.  

Watch a report from CBS 11 News.

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