Oregon School Classifies Christmas Trees as Religious Symbols

In an effort to remain neutral, students at a public school district in Oregon reportedly won’t see a Christmas tree by itself, but may spot the holiday symbol alongside other religious decorations.

Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro told the district’s school board on Monday that a committee studied the rulings of about a dozen court cases regarding school holiday displays before crafting the new guidelines, the Ashland Daily Tidings reports.

“Certainly these guidelines could be used at anytime that these celebrations could come up, but for us that mainly happens in December,” Di Chiro told the newspaper. “It’s actually called the ‘December dilemma’ that many, many schools face.”

District officials implemented the new guidelines this year following a controversy at Bellview Elementary School last December, when Principal Michelle Zundel removed a tree because a family complained that it was a religious symbol. After dozens of parents and students protested the decision, Zundel replaced the tree and allowed students to decorate it with symbols from their own religions, the newspaper reports.

According to the new guidelines, displays in public areas should “represent the diversity of the season, and should avoid symbols with patently religious meanings,” including the manger scene, menorahs, angels or the Star of David.

If a tree is displayed, it should be surrounded with “symbols from various religious backgrounds, along with secular symbols,” the guidelines state.

Di Chiro could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

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