Can Your Child Talk About Jesus in Public School During the Christmas Season?
“Jesus is the reason for the season, but we can’t talk about him at school.” This is what a 3rd-grader heard from his public school teacher one Christmas season, and he was confused and didn’t know how to respond.
Kids love holiday celebrations during the school year. Carving pumpkins at Halloween, dressing up as pilgrims at Thanksgiving, and making gingerbread houses at Christmas are all designed to engage your child in the holiday celebration while improving their fine motor skills. But, what happens when two reasons to celebrate Christmas — faith and culture — collide in a public school setting?
On that particular December day, this boy was engaged in a class activity of a Christmas quiz for the class to win prizes. The question from the teacher was, “What are words that describe Christmas?” Other children raised their hands with answers like “Santa,” “presents,” and “stockings” and were given an approving nod and points for the competition. But when this boy raised his hand and excitedly answered, “Jesus’ Birthday!,” his joyful face fell because he was told he was not allowed to say the name Jesus in public school and his answer didn’t count.
Wait, isn’t the Christmas holiday actually the celebration of the birth of Jesus?
According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans — and 95% of Christians — say they celebrate Christmas. However, the role of religion in Christmas celebrations appears to be declining. Today, 46% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas as primarily a religious, rather than cultural, holiday. So, what do we do?
As parents, it’s important that we stand behind our children’s faith walk. Kids need to feel safe to consistently express their faith at home and in school. As partners with the school in their educational development, we need to communicate this and kindly educate teachers when inconsistency happens. Keeping a physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe environment for learning is a common goal of teachers and families which results in children growing and thriving.
Fortunately, this boy’s Mom was familiar with her child’s religious rights and she scheduled a time to talk to the teacher. Here is what she said to kindly educate the teacher:
“I believe the best about you and I know you didn’t mean to confuse my son. But the fact is Christmas does celebrate Jesus’ Birthday. You can say his name because it is a fact. It’s not promoting a religion, which I know is not legal in public schools. I want to help you stay in your legal lane. The public school’s role is to protect religious freedom and not prohibit it. Unknowingly telling my child to leave out Jesus from a Christmas celebration is violating his religious rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.”
The teacher was very thankful and she apologized that her response confused the boy and infringed on this religious freedom.
Remember, kids do not need to check their faith at the door when going to public school. In fact, their faith can thrive while attending public school. It’s up to us, as parents, to educate ourselves first so we can kindly educate others. For more information on navigating faith while in public school, check out this article.
So, enjoy Christmas, celebrate Jesus’ birthday, and partner well with your child’s school by kindly educating others and protecting your child’s faith freedom.
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