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For religious reasons, Christmas, Halloween take a hit in schools

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 7:45 p.m. MDT

Port Jervis High School seniors walk through the halls of Anna S. Kuhl Elementary School during the Halloween Parade, a tradition in Port Jervis, N.Y., for more than 30 years, on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.  (Tom Bushey, Associated Press) Port Jervis High School seniors walk through the halls of Anna S. Kuhl Elementary School during the Halloween Parade, a tradition in Port Jervis, N.Y., for more than 30 years, on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. (Tom Bushey, Associated Press)

Schools across the United States are making changes in regards to different holidays this year.

In Pennsylvania, school districts shutdown all Halloween celebrations at the schools earlier this week, according to The Christian Post. An elementary school specifically “opted to ban a Halloween parade for the schoolchildren, with the principal citing religious concerns,” according to the Post.

The school, Inglewood Elementary in Montgomery County, which is north of Philadelphia, sent a letter to parents that the Halloween festivities, like the parade, were religious celebrations and thus couldn’t be celebrated at the school, The Christian Post reported.

But Inglewood isn’t the only one in the state to do so. Sporting Hill Elementary School also sent out a letter banning festivities, according to The Houston Chronicle. Sporting Hill falls in the Cumberland Valley School District, whose superintendent, Dr. Fredrick Withum, said the shift marks a change in the current age.

Children from the special language school Angeles sing Christmas carols at the post office in Santiago, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. (Santiago Llanquin, Associated Press) Children from the special language school Angeles sing Christmas carols at the post office in Santiago, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007. (Santiago Llanquin, Associated Press)

"Twenty years ago nobody ever would have thought that a principal would have to consider, as part of their training, what they would do in the event of a shooting in their building or if in the midst of an aggravated custody issue within their building in which a national amber alert is issued," he told the Chronicle. "The best way to make schools safer is to continue to help them be joyful places, but we are going to have to find new ways and new procedures to ensure that this is the case."

Not too far north in New Jersey in the Bordentown School District, “students won’t be allowed to sing religious holiday songs at winter concerts,” according to Religion News Service.

RNS reported Bordentown Superintendent Constance Bauer released a statement on Oct. 18, saying, “religious music should not be part of the elementary program.”

Students from Flushing Middle School participate an annual Halloween costume contest before classes on Thursday, Oct 31, 2013, at Flushing Middle School, in Flushing, Mich.  (The Flint Journal, Zack Wittman) Students from Flushing Middle School participate an annual Halloween costume contest before classes on Thursday, Oct 31, 2013, at Flushing Middle School, in Flushing, Mich. (The Flint Journal, Zack Wittman)

But there has been backlash against these decisions. For Bordentown, the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom sent out a letter “asserting that district officials misunderstood” a previous 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld a ban on religious songs.

“We write to explain that every federal court to examine the issue has determined that including Christmas carols and other religious music in school choir programs fully complies with the First Amendment and to urge you to immediately rescind the new policy instituted by administrative officials,” the letter reads.

In Pennsylvania, not all townsfolks are happy with the decision. Sue Dimoff, whose grandchildren now attend Sporting Hill, disapproved heavily of this movement to rid holiday songs and materials from elementary school halls, according to The Houston Chronicle.

"They want to change Christmas, Halloween, there's no Valentine's Day parties," Dimoff told the Chronicle. "They say it takes time away from instructional time. That's a bunch of baloney. You're going to tell me that 20 minutes out of the whole school year will do that when you have the amount of testing they do? It's ridiculous."

Gabriella Guerttman, 5, of Casper enjoys a caramel apple during a Halloween-themed activity session on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 at the Natrona County Public Library in Casper, Wyo.  (Alan Rogers, Associated Press) Gabriella Guerttman, 5, of Casper enjoys a caramel apple during a Halloween-themed activity session on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 at the Natrona County Public Library in Casper, Wyo. (Alan Rogers, Associated Press)

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