Contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus is not banned from East Syracuse-Minoa schools. Nor are any other important figures that represent a particular religious or cultural tradition. Superintendent Donna DeSiato made a brief statement at the Dec. 14 Board of Education meeting to reiterate the district's new holiday policy -- an initially controversial subject that has since been clarified and accepted by parents of ES-M elementary students.
Earlier this month, parents became furious after reading what some called a "confusing and vague" letter sent by the district to their homes. The letter read that programs involving singular traditions would not be allowed during school, which includes celebratory visits from Santa. Because the letter resulted from a parent who voiced concern over that particular annual event, many families took offense, proclaiming it was a slight against Christmas and Christianity.
DeSiato spoke directly to those who were upset by the change.
"All the individuals that I had the opportunity to speak with were concerned about the well-being of their families and preserving of traditions," she said in her statement. "What I want to be able to share with you tonight: So am I, and so are the leaders of this school district. As we attempt to preserve the traditions for the good of our students, for the good of our families, our schools, our community-at-large, we must equally respect that our families are entitled to make important choices for themselves."
So while children may not be able to sit on Santa's lap and whisper their wants during school hours, Santa Claus is welcome to make an appearance in classrooms if it's part of a holiday lesson plan.
"The banning of Santa was never a part of this message," DeSiato continued. "It was never communicated by the district that Santa would not be welcome in our schools."