Santa Claus is way too controversial to have a place in the classroom this Christmas — that is, according Oregon’s Hillsboro School District. The school district decided not to feature St. Nick because he’s just too closely linked to “religious-themed decorations.” “We will not be holding a door decorating contest this year,” read a memo from the school district. “You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus.” Apparently, the administration has received quite a bit of push back for the decision, and now district spokeswoman Beth Graser is trying to clarify that the schools are not banning Santa altogether. “We were NOT banning Santa, nor were we going to be the ‘decorations police,’ and scold people if they happened to have decorations up that might be too Christmas-y,” she said in a follow-up memo, “unless they were totally over the top.” “If a classroom turns into the Christmas version of a haunted house and you have to walk down candy cane lane,” she added, “then that’s a different story.”
According to Graser, there was no policy change per se, but rather it was just a narrative that got out of hand. She said the memo was just intended to be a reminder to principals to make sure the Christmas spirit didn’t get too festive. “Quite honestly the ‘competition’ aspect meant that several of the decorations had gotten excessive,” she said. “As a result, we had some staff members and visitors to our building indicate that they were uncomfortable and didn’t feel welcome due to the overwhelming Christmas atmosphere that had been created.” Of course, she said the ultimate goal was to create a safe space this holiday season. “We need to create inclusive and welcoming spaces for all of our students and realize that many of our students — because of their religion, culture, or other beliefs — do not feel comfortable (and in many cases may not be allowed by their parents) participating in activities that are holiday-based or religious in nature, or being surrounded by imagery that is a direct affront to them,” Graser said.