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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

'Tis the season for schools to tread lightly on holiday celebrations



Hanukkah and Diwali have recently passed. Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day and other winter holidays fast approach.

Schools like to mark the well-celebrated days with their students. But they also need to keep in mind the diversity of their populations, with the often-used mantra to "teach, not preach" at the forefront.

The Anti-Defamation League recently sent a letter to Florida districts offering some guidance on how to observe the holidays while respecting their students. Here's some of the advice:

-  Special school events, assemblies, concerts and programs must be designed to further a secular and objective program of education and must not focus on any one religion or religious observance. Religious music or drama may be included in school events, but the reason for including that music or drama must be to advance a secular educational goal. ...

-  Religious symbols are not appropriate seasonal decorations in public schools. The classroom and school premises are the place where children spend the majority of their day. It is important that all students feel comfortable and accepted in their school....

-  In an effort to be ecumenical, it is not advisable to rely on information provided by a representative child of a minority religion.  Students should not be put on the spot to explain their religious (or cultural) traditions. The student may feel uncomfortable and may not have enough information to be accurate. Moreover, by asking a student to be spokesperson for his/her religion, the teacher is sending a signal that the religion is too "exotic" for the teacher to understand. ...

-  Remember: diversity includes religious diversity. In designing holiday programming it is essential to keep in mind that the children entrusted to your care likely have widely divergent religious points of view. ...

-  Of course during non-curricular time, secondary school students may participate in student-led and student-initiated activities that acknowledge or celebrate the holidays on the same terms that they can participate in non-religious activity. ...

How are your schools marking the holiday season?

[Last modified: Monday, December 9, 2013 12:32pm]


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