Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

This month, second-graders at Valencia Elementary in Upland were met with unwelcome news: the Christmas songs that they’d practiced for weeks would be replaced with new-and-improved non-holiday songs. No matter that these children had actually voted for their favorite Christmas tunes, or that they would have to learn an entirely new songbook in a matter of days. ”Frosty the Snowman” would be replaced with “BINGO,” and that was that.

How did this decision come about? Did it represent an upheaval in school district policy? A sudden reversal of California law concerning holiday-themed music in schools? Some Grinchlike lawyer from Atheists United whining about separation of church and state? In reality, it had been one parent who complained about the songs’ religious implications, and had Upland Unified School District’s heads swerving on their necks.

Of course, disappointment ensued. This abrupt change was given without any proper explanation to Valencia Elementary’s students by school staff, and left them confused and disoriented.

Enter the heroes of our holiday story: Upland Unified Parents United. Within hours of seeing the news, the local parent group promptly met with Valencia Elementary’s principal and Upland Unified District’s leaders to voice their joint concerns. By the following weekend, an investigation was opened.

On December 11, a new letter was issued. In it, Dr. Shinay Bowman, the chief academic officer of Upland Unified School District, declared there was no problem with the original holiday songs, and that students would perform them. The letter confirmed that the school district has revisited its board policies, and directly references Upland Unified’s Board Policy 6141.2, which “allows music programs to have religious themes as part of the curriculum for school-sponsored activities and programs if presented in an objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage.”

The ending to this story is a happy one, and the positive outcome is entirely credited to the efficiency and hard work of Upland Unified Parents United. Ultimately, this incident also serves as a reminder for all grassroots groups to remain vigilant in their children’s lives at school. Voices are not only used for singing holiday songs. They hold power, and we can use them to actively speak out in defense of innocents. Can there be a greater, contemporary holiday tale?


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