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December 19, 2012 Print

Parents Claim Christmas Program a Form of ‘Bullying’

by Bethany Monk

A group of parents upset over a Montana elementary school’s Christmas program claim the presentation is unfair, unconstitutional and is a form of bullying.

The parents — whose children attend Chief Charlo Elementary School in Missoula, Mont. — outlined their concerns in a letter last week to the superintendent of the Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) district.

The school’s program is completely legal, said Matt Sharp, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) legal counsel.

“Courts have responded in favor of schools playing Christmas music, as long as it serves an overall educational purpose,” Sharp said, adding that it would “give students a truncated view of our culture to remove these songs.”

“From what we’ve seen, the school appears to have chosen a perfectly reasonable, balanced mix of songs like ‘Up On a House Top’ and ‘Joy to the World’ and has correctly emphasized that the musical program serves an educational purpose, reflecting long-standing, nationwide traditions,” said Candi Cushman, CitizenLink’s education analyst.

Some of the other songs in the performance included: “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”; “O Come Little Children”; Good Christian Men Rejoice”; and “Dreidel Spins.”

“This calls for a balanced approach,” Cushman said, “not knee-jerk reactions resulting in more over-the-top censorship.”

Students and teachers have the freedom to acknowledge and recognize the cultural roots of the Christmas holiday, Cushman explained.

“They shouldn’t be forced to hide or censor that,” she said. “At the same time, no child should be forced to participate in a presentation — parents should have the right to opt them out of the program.

ADF wrote a letter to MCPS Wednesday supporting its decision to continue with the music program and offered legal support should the parents file a lawsuit.

Watch “CitizenLink Report: Christmas in the Classroom.”