CENTERVILLE, Pa. – A Pennsylvania elementary school canceled its student performance of “A Christmas Carol” – a tradition for more than 40 years – after parents complained about Tiny Tim’s language.
Hempfield School District officials put the kibosh on the Charles Dickens classic after two parents reportedly complained about poor Timmy’s line “God bless us, everyone,” though they blamed the decision on the play’s distraction from academics, WHTM reports.
“It’s not part of the written curriculum of fifth grade, but students and teachers were required to participate in it and we can’t allow that to continue,” district spokeswoman Shannon Zimmerman told the news site.
Zimmerman said the complaints about Tiny Tim’s “God bless us” line prompted officials to take a closer look at the play, and they realized it diverted 20 hours of classroom time to preparation for the annual production.
“I was surprised because it’s been going on for decades and it’s a tradition at the school that everybody looks forward to,” local Jane Burkhart said.
“The kids are very proud of themselves for what they do, and put that on, and it’s just very sad that it’s not going to just because of one little line,” she said. “Charles Dickens is a classic author not a religious figure and I just think one little line shouldn’t ruin it for every kid in fifth grade, and to come.”
Principal tom Kramer posted a confusing notice about the cancellation on the school’s website that alleges the decision was not the result of the parent complaints, but “is rooted in the desire to be respectful of the many cultural and religious backgrounds represented by the students attending Centerville Elementary.”
“Over the years, preparations had evolved to take 15 to 20 hours of instructional (educational) time to produce this play. Given changes in state standards in recent years, we could not defend the commitment of this kind of instructional time to something not part of the fifth grade curriculum,” Kramer wrote.
“The teachers agreed that they did not want our students to be put at a disadvantage relative to their peers from other schools in preparation for 6th grade; therefore, the play was cancelled,” he wrote. “One rumor we’ve been addressing is that one or two families influenced this decision. That’s just not true. The instructional time issue was our primary concern.”
Randy Wenber, chief counsel for the Independence Law Center and Lancaster County resident, told Fox News’ Todd Starnes the cancellation of “A Christmas Carol” and other efforts to end Christmas traditions in public schools is sending students the wrong message.
“As a constitutional attorney I hate to see traditions taken away in my own community,” he wrote to Starnes. “What does this communicate to our kids? It says that anything religious is really not appropriate in public life. It’s something you’re supposed to keep to yourself.”
“It seems like people are trying to take away our traditions left and right,” he said. “We need to do something to push back.”