Manchester Elementary School Principal Jennifer Sinclair just landed on Santa’s naughty list, which means she probably won’t get any presents from the big man this year.
It’s like a bad Hallmark movie come to life, happy ending and all.
“It seems that I have stumbled upon a ‘big rock’ that I hadn’t anticipated,” Sinclair wrote to her legion of teachers in her “week ahead” newsletter for Dec. 3-7.
“I know that you are all very kind and conscientious people. I know all of the things that you’d like to do, have done, want to do are coming from such a good place. I come from a place that Christmas and the like are not allowed in schools as over the years in my educational career, this has evolved into the expectation for all educators,” she wrote.
Apparently, some teachers like Christmas, and want to share it with their students.
“I have unknowingly awoken a ‘sleeping giant’ with many of you. I apologize for the stress that ‘Christmas/holiday/Grinch/Santa/tree’ emails and conversations have caused you,” Sinclair wrote. “I will do my best to communicate the expectation from here on out, which aligns with my interpretation of our expectations as a public school who seeks to be inclusive and culturally sensitive to all our students.”
“I feel uncomfortable that I have to get this specific, but for everyone’s comfort I will,” she wrote.
The principal included two very detailed lists, of “acceptable practices” and “not acceptable” practices during the Christmas season. The directive banned Santa and Christmas trees, Elf on the Shelf and Christmas songs.
Other “not acceptable” items listed included:
Making a Christmas ornament as a gift – This assumes that the family has a Christmas tree which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of, “Well they can just hang it somewhere else.”
Candy Cane – that’s Christmas-related. Historically, the shape is a “J” for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.
Red/Green items – traditional Christmas colors
Instead, teachers should focus on snow, different holidays, winter activities, and imaginary creatures.
“Acceptable” practices listed included:
Snowmen, snow women, snow people, snowflakes
Holidays Around the World – purposeful presentation of information to teach about different cultures
Scarves, boots, earmuffs, and hats
Olaf – Frozen
“Please reflect on what you’ve already copied, prepped, and posted. I’m hopeful we can avoid the discomfort of me directly questioning something you’ve copied, posted, and had your kids do,” Sinclair wrote to teachers. “That makes me uncomfortable, and I know it doesn’t feel good.”
She signed the pretentious edict as “The (Unintentional) Grinch who stole Christmas (from Manchester).”
“I feel like it was very deliberate and intentional about eliminating just Christmas and putting an attack on what Christmas is and what it stands for,” parent Jenni Myers told WOWT.
“If a school’s going to be able to eliminate everything about Christmas, it may not stop there,” Myers said. “If a principal is going to make such a drastic policy as that, I would think that it would be good for the parents to be aware of a policy that was being made of completely taking Christmas out of a school.”
The situation didn’t sit well with a lot of folks, including the attorneys at the Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty law firm. Liberty Counsel’s Richard Mast sent a letter to Elkhorn Public Schools Superintendent Bary Habrock – as well as Sinclair, school board members, and the district’s attorney – explaining the numerous reasons why the principal’s “expectation for all educators” doesn’t jibe with the law or district policy.
“Liberty Counsel urges you to immediately overrule and specifically disavow the sweeping directive banning Christmas holiday items, and require Principal Sinclair to undertake a review of District policy and the law,” Mast wrote.
“In the spirit of Christmas, Liberty Counsel does not desire the removal of Principal Sinclair; only her compliance with the law; respect for the rights of others; and respect for cherished holiday traditions,” he wrote. “As she herself indicates, ‘she comes from a place’ where misinformation and hostility toward Christmas runs rampant, and that has shaped her professional development.”
A few days later, the district’s attorney, Justin Knight, sent a letter replying to Mast.
“Please be advised that, after receiving your letter, the Administration investigated this matter and determined that Principal Sinclair’s memorandum did not comply with Board Policy,” he wrote. “To this end, the Administration has advised Manchester Elementary School staff members of the applicable Board Policy (that does allow certain Christmas symbols) and will work with staff to correct any erroneous communications and clarify any misunderstandings.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, believes Sinclair owes her school an apology.
“We are pleased that Elkhorn Public Schools promptly reversed Principal Sinclair’s unconstitutional directive, and required compliance with the Constitution,” he said.
“The First Amendment does not require elimination of Christmas. … The First Amendment prohibits censorship based on religious viewpoint,” Staver said. “This outrageous three-page memo by Principal Sinclair was not based on ignorance of the law but hatred toward Christianity and Christmas.
“Principal Sinclair should issue an apology to her teachers and staff.”