643 R1 – Holidays and Parties in the Schools
The District’s practices regarding the study of and celebration of holidays and the holding of school parties should further the District curricular goals and objectives and should be integrated into the District’s regular educational program. Recognition of holidays and the holding of parties must also be in compliance with District policies and procedures, including policies on multi-cultural education and on religion in the schools. These policies provide, in part:
The District’s educational program shall promote the understanding of and respect and appreciation for the cultural diversity of our society. The educational program shall include consideration of the historical and contemporary contributions made by different racial and ethnic groups, by different religious groups, and by the disabled.
Since the contribution of religions to civilization is one of the crucial keys to understanding human history and development, the study of religious history and traditions should be part of the school curriculum and can play a vital role in enhancing an understanding among people of different religious backgrounds and beliefs. Such studies should give neither preferential nor derogatory treatment to any single religion or to religion in general, and should not be introduced or utilized for devotional purposes. Furthermore, no religious belief or nonbelief should be promoted by the District or its employees and none shall be disparaged.
The historical and contemporary significance of religious holidays may be included in the program of education provided such instruction is presented in an unbiased and objective manner. The selection of holidays to be studied shall take into account major celebrations of several world religions, not just those of a single religion. Holiday-related activities shall be educationally sound and sensitive to religious differences, and shall be selected carefully to avoid the excessive or unproductive use of school time.
1. Holidays which are recognized and celebrated by various religious groups may be studied in the District. There shall be no attempt to promote or disparage any religion. The holidays of just a single religion shall not be chosen for study. If studied, holidays of various religions shall be included.
2. Holidays which have primarily a secular basis may be recognized and celebrated as well as studied. This includes, for example: New Year’s, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day.
3. Holidays which have both a secular and religious basis may be studied and celebrated provided the celebration is secular and nonreligious.
4. Holiday symbols which are primarily secular may be displayed and used in instructional materials. This includes, for example: pumpkins, hearts, bunnies and eggs, bells, wreaths, and reindeers. However, appropriate discretion should be used, so that such holiday symbols do not dominate in the school environment and interfere with the learning environment. Schools should consider also displaying seasonal items, such as sleds, snow figures, snowflakes, mittens, umbrellas, flowers, etc.
5. Holiday symbols which are primarily religious, such as an angel, a cross, a nativity scene, a menorah, a Star of David, or a Crescent may be shown as part of a study of a particular religion on a temporary basis, but shall not be displayed in the school buildings or used in holiday celebrations.
6. The schools shall not have Christmas trees, either live or artificial, on display due to health and safety factors.
7. The school shall not have holiday caroling or conduct holiday “sing-a-longs.” The District will not have “Christmas” music programs, but may have winter programs which have a variety of music.
Music with a religious basis, such as Christmas carols, may be studied and performed, provided they are presented in a prudent manner and as part of the cultural heritage of the holiday. Carols shall be interspersed with other music.
8. Staff members may accept, but shall not solicit or encourage, non-monetary items as gifts of appreciation from students and their families at holidays. The Board’s policy on gifts to employees shall be adhered to carefully. The gift is not to be of excessive value, and an employee may not accept a monetary gift. The District’s policy is to encourage donations of an item for the District or for a classroom or activity in lieu of personal gifts to the employee.
Teachers should be sensitive to all students when receiving gifts. It is suggested that the teachers find an appropriate time to open the gift and to thank the student without having a formal “gift-giving” time where all students watch the gift opening.
9. Service projects, such as distributing items to needy families, may be conducted at holiday times, but such projects should be considered throughout the school year. Consideration should always be given to whether such activities interfere with learning during the holiday season.
1. There shall be no more than three school-wide parties during the school day in a building during a school year. Each building shall determine the occasions on which parties will be held. It is suggested that the building principal consult with the building staff, parents and students in determining which parties will be held.
2. Parties may not be religious celebrations or devotional in character.
3. Themes for parties which further educational objectives in the curriculum are specifically encouraged.
4. Invitations to guests to school parties must be approved in advance by the principal.
5. Consideration should be given to all students when planning parties so that students do not feel excluded or uncomfortable. The diverse ethnic, economic, racial and religious character of the student body should be considered. For example, if cards are to be shared at a Valentine’s party, provisions should be made so that all students have cards to share and so that all students are included in an exchange.
Date of Revision: January 28, 2008
URBANDALE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS