SAN JOSE, Calif. – Kindergarten parents in San Jose threatened to pull their kids out of school today after the school board canceled a Santa field trip over a single complaint from a Jewish mother.
For at least a decade, kindergarten students at Sartorette Elementary School have participated in a “Dear Santa” assignment that includes a trip to a local coffee shop to visit with the big man himself. But last week, school officials announced this year’s trip is canceled, citing a complaint from a Jewish mother identified only as Talia, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Talia wrote a four-page letter to district officials urging them to cancel the school tradition and voiced her concerns at a Dec. 1 board meeting. She’s also hashed out the issue in email exchanges with parents who vehemently disagree with her.
“Talia, a certified California teacher herself who requested her last name not be used, says she didn’t like the fact that one religion, Christianity, was the focus of most of the December teachings in the school. Specifically, she didn’t like her daughter writing letters to the North Pole for two days in a row, dressing up as reindeer, and a big annual field trip to the local coffee shop where the kids sit on Santa’s lap and ask for presents,” NBC Bay Area reports.
“This is not a Jewish issue for me,” Talia told the news site. “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.”
School officials buckled and canceled the Santa trip.
“Our biggest commitment is inclusion,” Cambrian School Superintendent Carrie Andrews said. “This isn’t about Santa. Santa is everywhere, he’s all around town. But during school, we have to represent and reflect our community to make sure we’re inclusive of all beliefs.”
Many parents are in a rage over the decision, and many have vowed to take their children out of school to go through with the field trip on their own.
“It’s very upsetting that the district would act after taking one person’s opinion and not talking to the 500 other families at the school,” Melanie Scott, whose son attended the trip last year, told the Mercury News. “But we’re not fighting this woman, in particular; we’re against the school board’s decision. And that’s why we’re doing the walkout, because they didn’t give us a say.”
Talia alleges some parents are bullying her because of the complaint, alleging she is “ruining Santa for the kids” in her “war on Christmas,” according to the news site.
“I had some parents that called me a communist, that said that I didn’t want any holidays in the school,” she told CBS San Francisco.
A dozen or so objecting parents reiterated their frustration with the district’s decision directly to the school board Thursday night.
“Bring back the field trip, now, in the spirit of inclusion,” one parent demanded.
“You guys (made) a decision off of one person, instead of representing all of us, and asking for feedback from the community,” another parent complained.
Ernesto May, owner of the Big E Café where students were slated to sit on Santa’s lap, told NBC Bay Area it’s a bummer Sartorette students will be missing out.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “Last year, we had 160 children come by to decorate the place, drop letters off to Santa and families donated toys.”
“That are they going to cancel next?” he questioned. “I know she means well, but we can’t shield our children from everything. When is it going to stop?”