New York School Bans Nearly All Holiday Celebrations, But Officials Say It Was A Misunderstanding

| by Nicholas Roberts
PS 169 In Sunset Park, Brooklyn.PS 169 In Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

A principal at a New York City elementary school has clarified that neither the pledge of allegiance nor holiday celebrations are banned from taking place inside the school, as was reported earlier in December.

The New York Post reported on Dec. 13 that Eujin Jaela Kim, the new principal of PS 169 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, had recently enacted new school policies that banned things like depictions of Santa Claus and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, while suggesting secular alternatives to holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

PTA President Mimi Ferrer said: “We definitely can’t say Christmas, nothing with Christmas on it, nothing with Santa. No angels. We can’t even have a star because it can represent a religious system, like the Star of David.”

A new directive from New York City's Department of Education allows the depictions of symbols like Christmas trees, dreidels and the Islamic star and crescent, but prohibits images that display actual religious texts, figures or deities.

Since the New York Post article was published, the school has reversed the policies that reportedly banned the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited as well as anything having to do with religious holidays.

News 12 Brooklyn reports that Kim apologized for the confusion in an email, and clarified that guidelines are written by the DOE rather than by the school.  School staff were emailed copies of the new, revised guidelines.

A spokesperson at the DOE said Kim's directive was the result of a "miscommunication" and said that the issues surrounding holiday celebrations have been cleared up. The school has also resumed reciting the Pledge of Allegiance over the PA system.

Ferrer expressed her hopes to keep working with the administration of PS 169 to avoid similar situations in the future.  

NBC News reported a statement from the DOE on Dec. 14 after the school had received heavy backlash from Kim's policies:

“We work to foster inclusive communities in our schools that welcome students and families, and celebrate the diverse values and traditions of all New Yorkers.  This principal continues to work closely with her school community to ensure PS 169 is an inclusive school, meet students’ and families’ needs, and celebrate the values that make her community and New York City great.”

Sources: CBS News, News 12 Brooklyn, WNBC  / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons