Nebraska principal who banned all things Christmas resigns

A worker is seen in a classroom inside Golden Rule Charter School, April 29, 2009. | Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

A Nebraska elementary school principal who sent an internal memo to teachers warning them not to use any Christmas-related messaging and activities in the classroom in December has resigned.  

Jennifer Sinclair, the principal at Manchester Elementary School in Elkhorn, has agreed to step down as school principal following her placement on administrative leave last month after she issued the guidance to teachers.

The internal memo outlined several holiday-related displays, objects, and activities that teachers were banned from using, handing out or assigning during the Christmas season.

Sinclair’s memo, which she signed as the “the (Unintentional) Grinch who stole Christmas,” listed many things that teachers should stay away from including the use of Christmas-related clip art on worksheets, placing Christmas trees in the classrooms, using Christmas-related books and singing Christmas carols with students.

The memo also warned teachers not to give candy canes to students. Sinclair claimed in the document that candy canes are shaped in a “J for Jesus” and that the red is for the “blood of Christ” and “white is a symbol of his resurrection.”

On Monday, the Elkhorn Public School Board unanimously accepted Sinclair’s resignation letter, according to an international social conservative legal group that opposed Sinclair’s memo.

“Due to the level of attention that Sinclair’s memo received, Sinclair and the district stand united that it is in the best interest of Manchester Elementary that she not resume the principal position,” Elkhorn Public Schools Superintendent Bary Habrock wrote in the email that was sent to parents and staff.

According to The Omaha World-Herald, Habrock said that Sinclair stepped down with a “heavy heart and sadness.”

“The district ... would like to thank her for the high level of professionalism during this publicly difficult time,” Habrock wrote in the letter. “We support Sinclair as a leader and educator.”

Sinclair has agreed to stay on with the school district and assume a curriculum position there, news station KMTV reports.

Sinclair’s internal memo drew the ire of the Florida-based conservative Christian legal group, Liberty Counsel, which sent a demand letter to Habrock calling for him to overrule Sinclair’s guidance.

The organization argued that Sinclair’s memo violated the academic rights of teachers as well as the First Amendment rights of students.

“The First Amendment simply does not require the elimination of all Christmas symbols — religious and secular — in a misguided attempt to be ‘inclusive’ by eliminating all traditional elements of a federally and state-recognized holiday,” the Liberty Counsel letter sent by attorney Richard Mast reads. “The effort to comprehensively eliminate Christmas symbols is Orwellian.”

Mast’s demand letter states that Liberty Counsel did not desire to see Sinclair’s removal as school principal but only wanted her “compliance with the law.”

Following the demand letter, a lawyer for Elkhorn Public Schools wrote a response letter explaining that Sinclair’s memo to teachers did not comply with school board policy and that the school district would “work with staff to correct any erroneous communications and clarify any misunderstandings.”

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