School district changes ‘Christmas’ to ‘winter’ holiday: Political correctness or sensible nod to diversity?

My former AJC colleague and former Georgia DOE spokesman Dana Tofig has been busy this week; he is the public information officer for Montgomery County Public Schools most noted – until this week – for its superstar superintendent Joshua Starr and its high-achieving students

Something tells me whether schools call their December break Christmas or winter, students will know what the holiday is about. (AJC FIle)

Something tells me whether schools call their December break Christmas or winter, students will know what the holiday is about. (AJC FIle)

This week the Maryland district took a stand in the Christmas wars, a mild stand to many but apparently a full-scale assault to those who believe Christianity is under attack in our public schools.

The school board voted to remove religious holidays from its calendars, in part because Muslim leaders had been requesting the schools close for at least one of the Muslim holy days.

The Washington Post reports Muslim leaders were unsuccessful “but in the 2015-2016 academic year, Eid al-Adha falls on the same day as Yom Kippur, which is a day off in Montgomery. So Muslim leaders asked for equal billing on the calendar.”

In an effort to be sensitive and resolve the question, the Montgomery school board voted this week to cleanse the school calendar of all mentions of religious holidays while still closing schools on those days.

So, the schools are still out for Christmas, only now the term is winter holidays. Some Georgia districts also call the December vacation “winter break.”  I have not heard any complaints, probably because the change was made quietly and without any public debate.

That was not the case in Montgomery County.

According to the Washington Post:

Christmas and Easter have been stricken from next year’s school calendar in Montgomery County. So have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.

Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays on the published calendar for 2015-2016, a decision that followed a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha.

Board members said Tuesday that the new calendar will reflect days the state requires the system to be closed and that it will close on other days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism. Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays, board members made clear that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays, which they say is not legally permitted.

As regular readers of this blog would have predicted, this decision did not sit well with the public and the school board and district are now under siege.

Among the criticisms posted on the Post story: Only one word for the Montgomery County School Board….STUPID! I graduated from MCPS and went on to obtain higher level college degrees. I was always proud to say that I was a product of MCPS. Now, I am embarrassed. Montgomery County, Maryland has permitted political correctness to replace sound judgment.

But there was also this comment – the position that seems the most rationale in this debate — One person’s “political correctness” is to another something that’s right to do. After all, some of us celebrate Yule, Winter Solstice and get more than a little weary of the endless pushiness people have about this sort of silly thing.  In the 1970’s, my school district made it Winter Break and we still carried on celebrating Christmas at our house with zero impact to our merriment.

Here is the official Montgomery Schools statement:

On November 11, 2014, the Montgomery County Board of Education made the decision to remove references to religious holidays from the 2015-2016 calendar. This is similar to what is done in many other districts in the region and across the country, including Baltimore City, Loudon CountyFairfax County and others.

This Board action DOES NOT CHANGE the days that students have off—students and teachers will still be off on Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 14) and Yom Kippur (September 23) next school year. All schools and offices will also be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas (December 24 and 25), the Friday before Easter (March 25, 2016) and the Monday after Easter (March 28, 2016), which are all state public school holidays. However those holidays themselves will not be named on the posted school calendar.

The change was made by the Board to recognize that the decision to close schools must—under federal and state law—be made for a secular or operational reason, such as high absenteeism of students and/or staff.  MCPS cannot close for religious reasons.

This was affirmed in a 1999 U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision (Koenick vs. Felton), which involved Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as a decision by the 2005 Maryland State Board of Education, ADC Baltimore v. Baltimore County Board of Education.

MCPS is an extremely diverse county and our students and staff celebrate a wide variety of religious and cultural holidays. While the operational impact of some holidays may not rise to the level of requiring us to close school, we do respect the rights of students and staff to celebrate those holidays.

The Board of Education has made a commitment to develop criteria and guidance and work with the community to ensure there is a fair and equitable process for determining when it is appropriate for MCPS to close for operational reasons.

Students who miss school to celebrate a holiday for which MCPS is not closed are granted an excused absence and are given an opportunity to make up any work. Major religious holidays on which MCPS schools are opened, such Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Lunar New Year, are designated “no testing days” districtwide. Teachers are encouraged not have major tests or major project deadlines on such days.

 

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
Tcope
Tcope

I like the fact that Georgia still closes state government for Confederate Memorial day. I am not joking!

Intteach
Intteach

I applaud the school district on being sensitive to different religious groups. Is there a school district in Georgia that is off on Rosh Hashanah? We cannot put our heads into the sand. We are changing demographically whether we personally like that or not. We will have to get along with each other and respect one another. In the end it does not matter whether Saudi Arabia has Christian holidays built into their school calendar or not. What matters is what we do here, right at home. Remember your Christian upbringing and love thy neighbor - no matter where he or she is from, what religion he or she has or what sexual orientation.

DeaconBlues
DeaconBlues

I wonder what the Saudi Arabian secretary of education (assuming they have one - I am dubious) would say if a group of fathers asked (because women aren't allowed to speak at these types of discourse) if they could have Christmas recognized for their school year.  Would the response be 40 lashes?  Public stoning?  What if the question was asked in Qatar or Bahrain?  


Having said that, MCPS made the correct decision.  These types of issues detract from the learning environment.  Whether one is for or against Merry Christmas, Jesus greeting cards, etc., the fact is that the issues are irrelevant to the learning process - except to the extent that the discussion only means less time engaged in making Johnny and Susie smarter.

Astropig
Astropig

Here's something to put all of us in a jolly holiday mood!


John Barge didn't get the Kansas SOS job,either. 



Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig


I'm sure the fine folks in Kansas want somebody halfway predictable in their actions.His "maverick" personae is getting really old. There is independent thought (admirable) and there is arrogant"loose cannonism" (stupid). Barge is clearly the latter. I'd say he made himself radioactive to Kansans when he endorsed whats-her-name for school super. His potential future bosses could see themselves pulling one of his knives out of their back some day.



AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"


What it meant when written: no national religion like The Church of England established by the federal government.


What it has grown to mean after a couple of centuries of legal perversion - this nonsensical pc claptrap.


BearCasey
BearCasey

I refuse to do Christmas shopping until the Monday after Thanksgiving.  God instructed me to avoid "Black Friday" because of my bad knees and I watch football on the weekend.

scrappy-22
scrappy-22

Changing the wording on a calendar is now offensive and called persecution?  Get over yourselves. There are actual problems in the world, try helping someone or being a good Christian and feeding the homeless rather than be up in arms and offended by the wording on a school calendar. 

As she pointed out, this change in wording has happened most everywhere else already, and not a peep. Why? Because it doesn't take away from the celebration of Christmas one little bit. 


Happy Holidays everyone!  

(I personally rather say Happy Holiday because it encompasses New Year's as a Holiday. So I will continue to say Happy Holidays!) 

BCW1
BCW1

PCness pure and simple! Everybody worries about offending everyone but Christians. By the way Merry Christmas!!

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Ban religious holidays - because it's so much easier than doing the hard stuff....like coming up with new techniques to motivate kids who don't care about learning.


When will schools get back to a 100% focus on their purpose - to educate kids?  Not to lecture to kids, but to educate them.  All the rest of this is just window dressing.

creative
creative

Probably depends on who you ask.  If you are a bible thumping right Christian then you would be pissed.  If you are an ACLU loving Communist left wing nut job then you would be happy.  Or you could be like the majority of humans like me who don't give a rat's a$$ because it doesn't affect me in the least bit. 

MD3
MD3

Around the world, there are Christians who are imprisoned, physically attacked, and murdered because of their faith. That's called persecution. Hearing someone say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is NOT persecution, and neither is an entity's decision to remove a holiday reference from its calendar. People need to get over their faux-outrage and stop trying to equate their ridiculous feelings of being slighted with actual persecution.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Political correctness run amok.  Folks, we must stand up to this attack on our country.  With more and more muslims being allowed to move into our country each year by bhusseino, who is himself a muslim, one day there will be enough muslims to elect a muslim president.  Is this what we want for our country?  And then they can complete the destruction of America, which is what they've wanted for hundreds of years.....without firing a shot.  Is this what you want for your children, grand children and great grandchildren?  I hope not, for everyone's sake.

MD3
MD3

@An American Patriot So the current president is a muslim... and his plot is to let more muslims move here... so that one day we'll have a muslim president??? Not sure I'm following your logic, because according to you, we already have a muslim president. Hmmm....

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@An American Patriot 

President Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. Muslims have the right to immigrate to this country like members of every other religion.  We may be at war with a splinter radical group that calls itself Muslim--and violates all the tenets of their religious book The Koran-- but this hatred expressed for the followers of Islam seems about as un-Christian as one can get.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@An American Patriot


The destruction of America?  By electing a muslim?  Which is in no way a violation of our Constitution which sets forth the rules and laws which are the foundation of our system of government?


We are under attack because we call a holiday Winter Break rather than Christmas Break?  THAT is a real threat to our country?  What a bunch of wusses we must be!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MD3 


I would say that An American Patriot's post is full of fear and ignorance.  President Obama is a Christian, but some in his family have been Muslims.  In the world today, that type of diversity is not to be feared nor is it unusual.  In fact, I think it is healthy for all concerned.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@MD3 @An American Patriot  Yes, MD3, we do indeed have a muslim president; however, he was elected by an American Electorate who listened and was taken in by his BS.  If you will take just a minute and re-read my comment, or for you it might take light years more, you may one day understand what I said......however , I'm not holding my breath.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@MaryElizabethSings @MD3  Yeah, MESS I want to see your reaction, if any of us are still here, of course when women are stoned for being outside their home or seen with a man or raped or you child, grandchild, gggrandchild is married off at thirteen or sold into slavery or a lot of other horrible things.  When, if our country (AND IT IS OUR COUNTRY, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT) is majority muslim, you're not going to have the same attitude you now possess in your smug little world.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

In the increasing globalization of our planet and in our increasing acknowledgment of human diversity in this nation and throughout the world, to change the Christmas holidays to the winter holidays in public schools seems not only appropriate, but also kind and sensitive to all religious practices.  One may practice one's individual religion in one's own house of worship.  I am a Christian in my religious faith.  


As the last sentence in my post from the last thread stated: "If we, as a human race, cannot experience compassion for one another, then what is the point of existence, itself?"

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@MaryElizabethSings  "If we, as a human race, cannot experience compassion for one another, then what is the point of existence, itself?"

Christian holidays are not observed by schools in predominately Muslim countries, while Muslim holidays are zealously enforced. Are you charging the Muslims with being uncompassionate?

EdUktr
EdUktr

When parents are free to choose the school which best meets their child's needs—such "issues" will likely evaporate.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Typical brain-dead educator response. The next step is to eliminate the Federal and State holidays.

Some happy day a school system will decide that education is a higher priority than legal risk management. Let the lawyers take a seat in the back.

Astropig
Astropig

I can officially begin my Christmas shopping now that Maureen has posted the annual holiday wedge issue column.