City School To Curb Religious Holiday Observances
A revised Policy on Religious Holidays, which encourages that all holiday programs be held outside of school hours, was adopted last night by the Ann Arbor Board of Education. The vote was 6-1. Casting the lone negative ballot was Trustee Ted Heusel. The name of the document, "Policy on Religious Holidays , ' ' was changed from "Christmas Policy" by the trustees with the encouragement of the Ann Arbor Educational Association ( A A E A ) . Association President David R. Harreli.-itf ïüs members gave a "positive endorsement" to the holiday policy. But a "significant majority" suggested a name change to make the policy much broader than covering Christmas only, he said. The new policy is a shorter, revised version of last year's Yule policy, which had been adopted on a trial basis. In previous years, Christmas policies were set informally each year by the Administrative Council, a group composed of principáis and administrators. Last year's policy stated that all Christmas programs must be voluntary. But it did not specifically state that such programs should be held outside of school hours. Ronald R. Edmonds, human relations director for the public schools and a mémber of the religious holiday committee, denied a contention by Trustee Cecil W. Warner that the nevv policy was "de-emphasizing" Christmas. The policy committee said it encourages the conducting of Yule and other holiday programs before or after school in order to be less disruptive to the school day routine, and to insure that students' rights and sensitivities are not violated. Before its adoption, the policy was blasted by a Pioneer High School teacher who is also executive director of Huron Valley Youth For Christ. Duane G. Cuthbertson said he did not feel a Christmas policy was needed, and termed such a document "another irritation" and "another attempt to split this community." Trustee Heusel voted against the new policy, contending each school should be allowed to set its own. "I'm just old fashioned enough to believe that Christmas is the most important time of the year for me and my family . . " Heusel declared. Since Christianity is the mam religión in the United States, Heusel argued, it should not be de-emphasized in the public schools. Asked why a religious holiday policy had been formulated, Supt W. Scott Westerman Jr. gave a variety of reasons: keeping "church and state" separate; being aware of the "sentiments" of non-Christians, and the criticism of some that Christmas observances in the past have been "disproportionate" to what they should be. The six-point policy reads as f ollows : 1) "The educational program should include recognition and discussion of the principal holidays of the major religions of the world." 2) "Recognition of Christmas during the month of December should not preclude the regular activities that characterize our program of instruction." 3) "It is the responsibility of the building administrator to insure that Christmas decorations should be reasonable in their physical dimensions and duration of placement." 4) "The following approach toChristmas programs i s encouraged: -AU participants must be volunteers. - Practice should occur before or after school. -The program should occur outside of school hours." 5) "An exchange of gifts among children should not take place in schools." 6) "Employés are not permitted to accept gifts from groups of pupils or parents, nor from individual pupils or parents on school property. The acceptance of gifts as an employé of the school system is discouraged. (Exception: gifts to a retiring teacher.)"
Ann Arbor News