An elementary school principal in Elkhorn Public Schools may have earned the inside track to Santa’s naughty list.
Manchester Elementary School principal Jennifer Sinclair issued a memo to staff prohibiting all Christmas-related symbols.
The memo caused an uproar with parents and teachers, some of whom got in touch with a Florida-based First Amendment group, Liberty Counsel.
District spokeswoman Kara Perchal released a statement on behalf of the district indicating that as of Thursday Sinclair had been placed on administrative leave. She said there would be no further comment since it was a personnel issue.
The district said it wouldn’t make the memo public, but Liberty Counsel did.
Banned items listed included Santas, Christmas trees, “Elf on the Shelf,” singing Christmas Carols, playing Christmas music, Candy Canes and reindeer, homemade ornament gifts, Christmas movies and red and green items.
A candy cane, the notice said, “the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus.” An ornament? “This assumes that the family has a Christmas tree which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of, ‘Well they can just hang it somewhere else.'”
Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the Elkhorn district asserting the ban showed hostility to Christians and demanding its reversal.
District officials hastily reversed the ban, saying the principal had violated district policy.
Justin Knight, a lawyer representing the district, replied to Liberty Counsel in a letter.
He wrote that the administration had “advised Manchester Elementary School staff members of the applicable Board Policy (that does allow certain Christmas symbols) and will work with staff to correct any erroneous communications and clarify any misunderstandings.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said the principal’s memo was the “most unique and I would say outrageous example” he’s seen of censoring Christmas symbols.
He called it “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“I don’t see how anyone could have claimed ignorance and claimed this was required by church-and-state law,” he said. “It just goes far beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”
He said he had never seen such a detailed list of what’s acceptable and what’s not.
The principal did allow some items, among them sledding, hot chocolate, polar bears, penguins, snowmen, gingerbread people, yetis and Olaf — he’s the Disney snowman from “Frozen.”
Stavey said the principal indicated in her memo she wanted to be inclusive but her ban excluded Christians and people who celebrate Christmas.
Staver said his organization was prepared to sue if the ban was upheld.
Thankfully, he said, district officials responded quickly to their demand letter.