Pennsylvania School District Refuses to Say Winter Instead of Christmas

Another school district is standing their ground on the whole debate of whether or not to call it “Winter Break” versus “Christmas Break”. Greensburg Salem School District, located in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania near suburban Pittsburgh, decided to retain the words “Christmas” and “Easter” on calendars after a complaint registered by resident Nina Lewis.

Lewis, who requested the changes after meeting with Superintendent Eileen Amato, said she has sought similar revisions from the district for decades.

“We’re of the Jewish faith and we don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter,” she said on Thursday. “There’s Muslims in the school district, nonreligious people. It should be called winter and spring. … There’s supposed to be a separation of church and state in the schools.

“I don’t care about the overtones it has,” she added. “I don’t celebrate any of these holidays. I want it to say winter and spring.”

Director Lee Kunkle defended using the terms, saying to many people, Christmas and Easter are celebrated but have no religious overtones.

Christmas trees, the Easter bunny and gifts are symbols of the holidays and are used in schools but are not religious, he explained, to the apparent satisfaction of most directors.

“It’s a national holiday,” Kunkle said. “We’re holding it has nothing to do with religion.”

“I see no reason for a change,” President Ron Mellinger added during the board discussion.

No director voiced a contrary opinion during the meeting, a nonvoting session. Most directors in attendance indicated support of Kunkle and Mellinger’s statements.

“Our Founding Fathers never intended that all reference to God should be eliminated, but rather that our nation should not have a national religion, such as the Church of England,” Director Frank Gazze said on Thursday. “They wanted to have religious freedom for all, but that does not eliminate God from everything.”

This isn’t the first time the district has faced this issue. In 1999, Greensburg Salem changed “Christmas parties” to “holiday parties” in a handbook after receiving a similar request, according to published accounts. At some point later, the district went back to using Christmas.

Solicitor John Scales said he knew of no legal reason compelling directors to grant the change, repeating that Christmas is a national holiday.

Perhaps Ms. Lewis should read the results of this survey that indicates as many as a third of American Jews…uh,…celebrate Christmas.

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