Manchester Elementary School principal Jennifer Sinclair distributed a memo to teachers with a list of "not acceptable" and "acceptable" decorations for the holiday season. District spokesperson Kara Perchal told KETV Sinclair is a new principal and never spoke with other administrators about her policy before issuing the memo.
According to KETV, the memo listed worksheets with Santa Claus or other Christmas items, Christmas trees in classrooms, playing any Christmas music, decorating rooms in red and green, Elf on the Shelf, assigning children to make a Christmas ornament and sending Christmas-related Scholastic book as "not acceptable" practices.
The "not acceptable" practices list also included showing Christmas movies and handing out "Christmas-related" candy canes.
"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," the memo read.
The list of "acceptable" characters and things to have in classrooms included snowmen, sledding, hot chocolate, polar bears, penguins, scarves, boots, earmuffs and hats, gingerbread people and snowflakes. The list also included "holidays around the world."
"Please remember that we are not to be doing any Christmas or holiday-specific themed activities with students. Santa and Christmas items are not to be on activities or copies. We have varied religious beliefs in our school, and it is our job to be inclusive," Sinclair wrote in the memo. "Adhering to your district pacing guides is necessary and important. If you're wondering about a specific activity that you 'traditionally do,' please come have a conversation with me."
Perchal sent a statement to KETV distancing the Elkhorn Public Schools District from the memo.
"Elkhorn Public Schools District administration promptly addressed the issue at Manchester Elementary School regarding the memo that was sent by the principal to Manchester elementary staff," the statement read. "The memo does not reflect the policy of Elkhorn Public Schools regarding holiday symbols in the school. The District has since clarified expectations and provided further direction to staff in alignment with District policy. This issue was limited to Manchester Elementary School and did not arise at any other schools within the District."
Perchal said Sinclair was put on administrative leave Thursday morning. KETV also reports that parents received an email telling them a police officer will be at the school "As an added safety measure and in an act of extreme precaution."
The school district suspended Sinclair after the Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the superintendent to lift the Christmas ban.
"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. As she herself indicates, 'she comes from a place' where misinformation and hostility toward Christmas runs rampant, and that has shaped her professional development," the organization's letter read. "We trust that this will be a good learning experience for her and that she will conduct herself and make decisions involving other church-state matters with appropriate respect for expressions of faith, and not with hostility."
According to the Omaha World-Herald, Sinclair apologized to staff in an email Wednesday, admitting she made a mistake.
“I love the Manchester staff and our students,” the letter reads. “It is an honor to serve as the principal at Manchester Elementary.”
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