candy canes
© Joanna Kosinska/Unsplash

An elementary school in Nebraska has banned a long list of Christmas-themed items in hopes of being "inclusive and culturally sensitive to all of our students," the principal said.

According to a report from Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty law firm, principal Jennifer Sinclair has banned an extensive list of items from Manchester Elementary School of Elkhorn Public Schools.

Here's what's banned:
  • Santas or Christmas items on worksheets
  • Christmas trees in classrooms
  • Elf on the Shelf - that's Christmas-related
  • Singing Christmas carols
  • Playing Christmas carols
  • Sending a Scholastic book that is a Christmas book - that's Christmas-related
  • Making a Christmas ornament as a gift - this assumes that the family has a Christmas tree which assumes they celebrate Christmas
  • Candy cane - that's Christmas-related. Historically, the shape is a "J" for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.
  • Red/green items - traditional Christmas colors
  • Reindeer
  • Christmas videos/movies and/or characters from Christmas movies
In a memo explaining her banning of nearly every Christmas-related item, Sinclair said she "come[s] from a place that Christmas and the like are not allowed in schools," a positions she argued "has evolved into the expectation for all educators."

"I have unknowingly awoken a 'sleeping giant' with many of you," she wrote. "I apologize for the stress that 'Christmas/holiday/Grinch/Santa/tree' emails and conversations have caused you."

Here's what's allowed:
  • Gifts for students
  • Snowmen, snow women, snow people, snowflakes
  • Gingerbread people
  • Holidays around the world
  • Sledding
  • Hot chocolate
  • Polar bears
  • Penguins
  • Scarves, boots, earmuffs, hats
  • Yetis
  • Olaf - "Frozen"
Sinclair told teachers, "I'm hopeful we can avoid the discomfort of me directly questioning something you've copied, posted and had your kids do. That makes me uncomfortable, and I know it doesn't feel good." She signed the letter, "The (Unintentional) Grinch who stole Christmas (from Manchester)."

In response to the barring of Christmas-themed items, Richard L. Mast, a litigation attorney with the Liberty Counsel, sent a letter to Elkhorn Public Schools. The district responded, admitting it had "investigated this matter and determined that principal Sinclair's memorandum did not comply with board policy."

Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said he is "pleased" the district has reversed Sinclair's orders.

"The First Amendment does not require elimination of Christmas," he said. "Nothing prohibits public schools from teaching objectively about Christmas or other holidays with religious significance, from displaying religious and secular Christmas symbols side-by-side or singing sacred and secular Christmas songs together."

Staver added, "The First Amendment prohibits censorship based on religious viewpoint. This outrageous three-page memo by Principal Sinclair was not based on ignorance of the law but hatred toward Christianity and Christmas. Principal Sinclair should issue an apology to her teachers and staff."