“Happy Winter” just doesn’t have the same ring as Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, but in one Connecticut elementary school, that’s about all you’ll see and hear this holiday season.
Erik Brown, principal of Walsh Elementary School in Waterbury, Conn., has reportedly banned all religious festivities and many decorations from the classroom since arriving at the school five years ago. Brown, who declined comment through a spokeswoman to FoxNews.com on Friday, explained to The Republican-American newspaper that state law mandates that a public school cannot knowingly exclude children.
“This is not a church,” Brown told the paper. “It’s a school and it’s a public school. I have to do things that include every child. So what we do is celebrate winter.”
In a statement, Waterbury Public Schools Superintendent David Snead defended Brown, calling the issue of religious celebrations “especially difficult” in December and reminding all staff at the district’s schools that holidays festivities can proceed but without religious overtones.
“This a constitutional issue â€” separation of church and state â€” and is not up to individual discussion,” Snead’s statement read. “The issue of religious celebrations is especially difficult during the month of December.”
Waterbury Teachers Association President Donna Vignali, who could not be reached for comment Friday, has said neither she nor union officials at Walsh Elementary have received any complaints related to the policy.
“I don’t know where that complaint came from,” Vignali told The Republican-American in reference to reported objections to the policy by one teacher and one parent at the school.
Board of Education member John Theriault told the paper that many of Waterbury’s 20 elementary schools display Christmas ornaments and allow Christmas parties.
“I felt there was inequity,” Theriault said. “If one school has Christmas parties for the kids, then others should too.”
Brown told the paper that songs celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa will be sung during Walsh’s “Winter Celebration” on Dec. 21, and as in previous years, presents will be given to students.
Snead, meanwhile, stressed “balance and equality” regarding any in-class celebration.
‘It is possible to acknowledge and teach about each holiday as it approaches, provided there is a balance and equality in the approach, with no one religion receiving any special consideration,” Snead’s statement continued. “As long as the line is not crossed between ‘teaching’ about a holiday and ‘endorsing’ the religion, this is acceptable, but no public school should promote any religious observance.”
Calls seeking comment from Board of Education President Patrick Hayes were not immediately returned Friday.