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Christmas Rules?

Schools Battle Christmas Rules
Reported By: Denis O’Hayer
Web Editor: Michael King
Last Modified: 12/9/2005 10:37:24 AM
Last Modified: 12/9/2005 10:37:24 AM

There’s still no peace on Earth in the fight over Christmas and public places. A new bill in the Legislature would protect public workers or public school students from being punished if they say "Merry Christmas" to each other, instead of "Happy Holidays."

Students at DeKalb’s Lakeside High School come from 68 countries and speak 59 different languages. That produces cross-cultural greetings at the closing of year.

“I can say to my friends, ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ and they’re like ‘Happy Hanukkah to you too,’ even though they’re Christian,” said senior Elizabeth Moser.

Principal Wayne Chelf said his rule for balancing religious expressions is live and let live.

“I saw a young man in the hall with a Santa hat on, and we have that all over the building. And nobody makes any comment about it at all. We let them enjoy their own celebration,” Chelf said.

But while Lakeside allows its students to express themselves about the holidays to each other, one thing you won’t see in these hallways are any official school decorations — none at all — and no Christmas pageants either.

State representative Clay Cox said that goes too far. His new bill protects public school teachers and students who verbally express themselves about a public or legal holiday, like Christmas.

“Saying Christmas, expressing Merry Christmas, is under attack, maybe even nationwide. And I felt it was a free-speech issue that I needed to deal with and the Legislature needs to take a look at,” Cox said.

Some Lakeside students said political correctness is often too much, but they wonder if a law is the answer.

“It can be taken to get into other people’s faces and get offensive,” said senior class president Hayley Mason.

Senior Julio Corado said, “In a more Christianized environment, it might be a problem for other people.”

“I think it would create more controversy rather than trying to solve a problem,” said junior Noureen Haji. “But I’m going to err on the side of overreacting when it comes to protecting free speech.”

Neither side has to worry this year. The Legislature won’t meet until January.

Last week, Jackson County Schools clarified their Christmas rules, after a group of teachers complained they were banned from even saying "Merry Christmas" to each other.

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