California Jewish Mom’s Complaint About School Outing to See Santa Causes Trip Cancellation, Anger Among Parents
Public school parents in San Jose, Calif. are sounding off on a Jewish mother after a complaint she lodged led to the cancellation of a Christmas-themed field trip, NBC reported on Wednesday.
As it has done for the past 10 years, the Sartorette Elementary School organized a trip for its kindergarten class to a local coffee shop — Big E Café –where the kids would drink hot chocolate and sit on Santa’s lap to ask for presents.
But Talia (last name withheld at her request), a Jewish teacher with a daughter in the class, did not want her 5-year-old to participate.
Talia told NBC that she is unhappy that Christianity is the focus of most of the school’s curriculum throughout December, giving the example of her daughter’s class writing letters to the North Pole and dressing up like reindeer.
Talia’s daughter is the only Jew in the kindergarten, but other kids in the class hail from different cultures, as well, Talia said.
“This is not a Jewish issue for me,” she said. “It’s an inclusion issue. We can’t spend five days on just one culture. That’s fostering intolerance. When Christmas is given the same time, or less time, than American holidays, like Veterans Day, then kids don’t feel as American.”
The Jewish mom voiced her concern in letters to the school, as well as at a Dec. 1 school board meeting and with the school superintendent. As a result of her efforts, the school decided to cancel the Santa outing.
Many parents upset about the decision unfriended Talia on Facebook. One even shouted at her on Wednesday: “You’re the one who started the war on Christmas,” NBC reported.
Joanne Tashiro, a fellow mother of a child at the school, accused Talia of trying to “scrub down our school and devoid it of any cultural teaching or tolerance.”
Tashiro and other parents are planning not to send their children to school on Friday — when the trip was supposed to take place — and go on their own to see Santa at the coffee shop. Big E Café owner Ernesto May said he thinks the children should be able to sit on Santa’s lap whether or not they celebrate the Christian holiday.
“What are they going to cancel next?” he asked. “I know she means well, but we can’t shield our children from everything. When is it going to stop?”
Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, DC, agreed that cancelling the field trip was the correct measure for the school to take.
“This assignment is inappropriate in a public school,” he told NBC. “What is legal is not always right. At the very least, this is ill advised. You shouldn’t have a holiday experience that privileges just one particular religion.”