Santa Banned From Classroom When Muslim Family Complains

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, In The News, Opinions

For the past four years, Santa Claus has visited the children of St. Peter, Minnesota's Head Start Program. Santa, in this case, is a gentleman by the name of Dennis Jackson, who donates his time and the candy he gives out to spread Christmas cheer to the little ones who attend this program for low-income families.

But this year, Mr. Jackson (I mean Santa) was told by Head Start's administrator not to come. Why? Because, according to the regional coordinator for the Minnesota Valley Action Council, Chris Marben, at least one Muslim family complained of his visit.

When asked about banishing Santa, Marben said, "We have Somali families in the program. We're respecting the wishes of families in the program." She added, "Part of our challenge in Head Start is providing an environment where young children from many different cultures can all feel comfortable."

Hogwash! Mrs. Marben's decision has nothing to do with making the children feel comfortable. What child wouldn't be thrilled to see jolly old St. Nick and get some free candy?

This decision was all about the grown ups -- their politics, ideology, their fears of lawsuits and their intolerance.

Instead of taking Santa away from all the other kids, why couldn't objecting parents keep their child home that day, or simply request to have their child removed from the classroom at the time of this (supposedly ghastly) visit? But more importantly, Santa-tizing our schools from any religious symbols or references doesn't teach our children to be tolerant or sensitive to other people's religions or cultures. It does quite the opposite.

Moreover, it does the child of a Somali immigrant no good to shield him or her from a symbol that is so universally beloved by Americans. As the daughter of an immigrant myself, I can assure you that knowledge and understanding of the society the child's family has chosen to live in, is key to the child's success and assimilation.

No, none of this is about the children. It's too bad because Christmas is a time when we all think about ways to bring joy to children -- all children -- including those of the Muslim faith.

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