My son goes to a public school in Indiana. The school is having its annual Christmas program tonight. The children in the school are being told that their attendence is not optional. They are required to be there. If their parents cannot be there they need to find other transportation. The school has a history of giving the students a failing grade in music if they do not come to the event. The question is is this legal? Can a school set up an event after school hours and force children to attend?
I don’t understand. Do all students at this school take music? Certainly, schools can (and do) have mandatory off-campus events after hours and on weekends. Field trips and such, as well as band competitions and athletic team practices.
However, there’s a larger issue. A mandatory Christmas program? That is so unconstitutional I can smell it from here.
So a Jewish child attending this school must attend the Christmas program?
But even those are “optional.” Band and athletics are not compulsory. A well-placed call to the principal should clear this up. Mention that you know the superintendent’s number for extra-fast resolution.
All ot the students in the school do take music. It is an elementary school, grades K-6. Each grade has a music class once a week. There is also a band for grades 5 and 6. The band class is not mandatory. Students who choose to take band sign up for it.
There are no Jewish children in the school. If there were I think there might be an end to the problem. On the other hand they may just add the Dreidel (sp?) song to the program and bully them into coming also.
Yes I will probably have to call the principal tomorrow. My son really does not want to go and I am not going to make him.
Even if every single kid in the school in the school is born again, bible believing, fundamentalist Christian (and has said so without being spurred on by adult prompting) Christmas program is totally unconstitutional.
How has that not sunk in yet?
Is it, in fact, called a Christmas concert?
My son’s school has a ‘winter concert’ with songs about Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, snow, etc. (nothing about Tet - yet).
Threaten with a lawsuit and that’s game over. You could probably make national headlines with this one too… I seriously think, you say, “my child will not be attending the Christmas dealy this year. What are the repurcutions of this action?” If there are any, start threatening them. You know the superintendent’s number, etc. If they give your child a bad grade, or he suffers disciplinary action, call the principal, explain what happened, and then tell them they can expect to see you in court.
They will be forced to back down.
Yes I just triple checked it is definitely called a Christmas Program. There are four elementary schools in the school district. They each have a Christmas Program. I agree it is completely unconstitutional. I am guessing that no one has ever complained so they have had no reason to change the name.
Um, your only objection is that your son doesn’t want to participate in the program? It’s not a religious objection on your part?
I think you want to do the right thing for your kid, which IMO is first, not embarrass him, and if the only issue is that he doesn’t feel like participating in the program, there’s an easy way out that doesn’t call for a lawsuit or anything–just explain it to his teacher, and then bring him to the program but have him sit there in the audience with you.
My oldest kid, who is now 18, went all weird on us and refused to participate in the Spring Kindergarten musical. Her teacher was at a loss to know what to do, but I said, “Hey, if she doesn’t wanna do it, she doesn’t wanna do it”, and I brought her to the program and sat there with her in the auditorium. So everybody was happy.
My kids have all been in music programs, too, but they were music programs that one way or another they signed up for, or auditioned for, and so yes, the teachers told them, “If you are going to be in Honor Choir, you MUST attend all performances.” But that’s different from the once-a-week “music class” thing.
Talk to the school principal before you start hollering about the ACLU and lawsuits. Most principals are reasonable people, and it’s entirely likely that this has just never come up before–they’re not necessarily trying to force you into a “Christian” celebration.
And most teachers who are putting on a musical don’t want kids there who really don’t wanna be there. The possibilities for disruption are too great.
P.S. How do you know there aren’t any Jewish kids in your school? What school district is it? Unless it’s some really dinky rural school district I’d be really surprised if there weren’t a few Jewish families.
If it’s big enough to have four elementary schools, it can’t be that tiny.
Actually, the district may be in the clear if the songs themselves don’t have any religious connotations, or even if religious songs are mixed with secular ones. “Frosty the Snowman”, “Winter Wonderland” et al.
The term Christmas, though obviously Christian in origin, is not in itself any evidence of religious establishment or bias. Christmas is a federal secular holiday, declared as such by the government in 1870.
The Supreme Court has ruled that displays of a religious nature balanced with secular bric-a-brac on public property is legal.
I don’t want to tell you what your priorities should be, undecided, but I’d just be thankful that the district had a music program left, and evaluate the content of the program.
DDG Yes my only problem with the program is that my son is uncomfortable going. He is twelve and quite a lot bigger than most of his classmates. It really is kind of painful to watch him looking miserable singing Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer.
I do realize the complete wrongness of a public school staging a Christmas program. But I really don’t think I will be calling out the ACLU on them or anything.
I am not sure about the reasonableness of this particular principal. The police were called to last years program. The principal would not let a father who had to go to work on the night shift take his daughter out of her kindergarten class before the program was over.
Rinky dink does describe the school district. They have four elementary schools that cover most of a large rural county. The schools merge at the seventh grade for one middle and high school. There is no ethnic or religious diversity. There was one African-American student two years ago. I think that he left the district though.
Mr. Moto You may be right. It seems that most of the songs sung are not religious.