The Short of It
Is a field trip to see Santa appropriate for public school children? Jewish and Christian parents at a San Jose, Calif., school are up in arms about that very question.
At Sartorette Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., a Jewish mom complained after a kindergarten class was asked to write letters to and then visit a coffee shop Santa.
"We need to teach about all the holidays," the mom, who is named Talia, said about the annual trip.
Many Christian parents didn't appreciate Talia speaking out to the school board. "I had some parents that called me a communist, that said that I didn't want any holidays in the school," Talia claims, and she says other parents accused her of waging a war on Christmas.
"I've been crying every day this week. I can't sleep; I haven't eaten; I'm actually sick from all of this," San Jose resident Vanessa Howes told the local ABC 7 News station.
In fact, some were so upset, they staged a walkout, pulling their kindergartners out of class to go visit the Santa as scheduled, shown in the picture above.
But Talia argues since Sartorette is a public school, a Santa visit is simply not appropriate.
"I'm not going around to anybody's homes asking them not to celebrate Christmas," she says. "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."
That being said, the mom, who claims her relatives were beaten in Poland over their religious beliefs, isn't asking for the observation of Judaism to be given equal time at school. She advocates complete separation of religion and education.
"This is not a Jewish issue for me. It's an inclusion issue," Talia explains. "We can't spend five days on just one culture. That's fostering intolerance."
Another local resident Jennifer Schachner points out: "Maybe it was something that they could've waited to decide to change their policy next year and kind of understand that this year, the kids were already looking forward to all of this."
Talia certainly makes many good points. But are the parents who protested the cancellation of the trip also warranted in their reactions? It's worth noting that at one Brooklyn public school, parents spoke out strongly about a principal's ban on all things Christmas and got her policies reversed.
Incidentally, since this brouhaha, the school has planned a new tradition in which different parents will come to class to talk about their religions.