HILLSBORO, Ore. – An Oregon school district is asking staff not to use Santa Claus or other Christmas-themed images in their decorations out of fear they might offend students and visitors who don’t celebrate the holiday.
The letter from the human resources office of Hillsboro School District to staff announced that there would be no door decorating contest this year.
“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,” the letter from the Hillsboro School District to staff read.
The controversy first was reported by TV station KATU, which noted that some parents were confused why Santa was being labeled a religious symbol.
“I think Santa Claus is more folklore and American history than a religious symbol at this point,” parent Jason Ramirez said.
An unidentified parent told the TV station, “I’m from that generation where we believe in Santa, and my kids believe in Santa, and they should be able to celebrate it.”
Beth Graser, communications director for the school district, said the notification was directed not at parents but at staff “just to make sure they are being sensitive and thoughtful as they enter the holiday season.”
Facing a backlash, the school district posted an explanation on its Facebook page, saying that “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.”
Despite the memo, the school district insists that Santa is not being banned and that decorations would not be policed.
“We have no policies or directives around this issue, we merely want to remind staff that 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,” the school district’s Facebook page reads.