Why does Shen not allow teachers to play Christmas/Holiday music? I understand that Shen wants everyone to feel welcome and not specify toward any one religion. What is the BOE policy on this? What email was sent out to teachers about this? Can Shen please post this email? Can Shen just not allow music with the word “Christmas” to be played? Students should be able to celebrate the holidays at school. Does this mean that I cannot wear a Christmas hat to school? If I still can, why can I not listen to Christmas/Holiday music?

Written by on January 8, 2018

A. Students can do anything they want as far as religious expression as long as it does not violate the code of conduct.

Policy 8360: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m6Xc63zMW3nhLEkpFQCjgc-2K7sRqhDStLYOTDMzfEM/view

Regulation 8360R: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14BqXRXBXqIiMZYJlvskbGDDpQweOMJ9u58Zuex8pNHA/view

Polic 7640: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18P1xajlSJcslm9U9hdbJbn0fG7VWsAPg9VlJS9Adz4g/view

Here is the e-mail that goes out each year:

As the December holidays approach, we know that we may be faced with difficult questions about how to appropriately acknowledge the December holidays. In an effort to help you comply with the applicable laws and our policies (8360, 8360R and 7460), please be mindful of the potential or even perceived religious, as well as discriminatory nature of our actions. In an effort to ensure your actions create a school environment that celebrates diversity by respecting differing points of view concerning religion, see the following suggestions.

  • Schools must be careful not to cross the line between teaching about religious holidays (which is permitted) and celebrating religious holidays (which is not). Celebrating religious holidays in the form of religious worship or other practices is unconstitutional. Teaching about a holiday will be constitutional if it furthers a genuine secular program of education, is presented objectively, and does not have the effect of endorsing, advancing or inhibiting religion.
  • 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. Such events must not promote or denigrate any particular religion, serve as a religious celebration, or become a forum for religious devotion.
  • 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. Symbols of religious holidays may make some students uncomfortable and unwelcome because their holidays and traditions are not represented or because they do not celebrate religious holidays at all.
  • 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. The way you approach the December holidays will determine whether those children whose religious views fall outside of the majorities are made to feel welcome and comfortable in their school building or whether they will feel as if they do not belong.
  • Safety reminders: Stringing lights should not be used at all due to fire hazards. Untreated paper, cardboard, fabric, plastics and natural tree boughs present fire hazards far beyond any ‘creative expression’ achieved. Use only decorations that bear the UL label or are certified by the manufacturer to be flame resistant; and, as always, NYS fire code requirements should be adhered to.
  • Additionally, it is important to review Policy 8360 and Regulation 8360R – Religious Observances. The regulation specifically addresses:
    • Request for Student Absence from School
    • Test Schedules and Religious Observances
    • Make-up Work and Homework
    • Instructional Accommodations
    • Student Request for Accommodation for Prayer
    • Teaching about Religion and the Expression of Beliefs in Student Work
    • Decorations
    • Employee Rights and Responsibilities