Santa Claus can still visit Woodland Elementary School in East Syracuse, N.Y., but only after school hours and not mingling with children in the cafeteria as in the past.
The Post-Standard reports that the East Syracuse-Minoa school system has restricted Santa to after-hours unless he’s connected to a “classroom lesson or activity that’s educational and inclusive of all holiday observances and traditions.”
Patti Puma, who has a fourth-grader at the school, calls Santa a “secular, cultural tradition” and says she is circulating a protest petition to take to the school board next week.
Schools superintendent Donna DeSiato says the new guidelines are designed to ensure the district doesn’t promote one singular tradition.
“We did not ban Santa,” she says. “That is a misunderstanding. We are separating out singular activities that need to be family choices, like having Santa come to school and children telling him what they want for Christmas, from instructional programming.”
She says officials were questioned by someone in the district as to why it promoted a “singular focused activity” involving Santa when schools began planning holiday events.
Woodland PTO president John Caramanna says the group has no position, but he doesn’t understand the controversy.
“Santa isn’t in the Bible, and I don’t see a manger with him in it,” he tells the newspaper. “He’s like a marketing guy; a jolly old guy with a white beard who’s fun for the kids.”