Principal placed on leave after banning all things Christmas, saying candy canes symbolize Jesus

A teacher conducts a class at a public U.S. elementary school. |

The Nebraska principal who banned teachers from using all Christmas or holiday-related symbols or activities in class has been placed on leave for violating school district policy.

Jennifer Sinclair, the principal of Manchester Elementary School in Elkhorn, was placed on administrative leave last Thursday after she sent teachers an internal memo outlining several holiday-related displays, objects, and activities that teachers may not use, give out or assign during the holiday season.

Among the many things listed by the principal included Christmas trees, Christmas symbols, the singing of Christmas carols, the playing of Christmas music and even candy canes. Sinclair told the teachers in the memo 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.”

Sinclair signed her memo, “The (Unintentional) Grinch who stole Christmas (from Manchester).”

Sinclair’s memo drew the ire of parents and the conservative Christian legal group Liberty Counsel, which sent a demand letter to Superintendent Bary Habrock at the end of last month. The school district responded with a letter last week from a lawyer representing the school district explaining that Sinclair’s memorandum “did not comply with board policy.”

Sinclair sent out an email to parents apologizing for her memorandum last Wednesday.

“Last week, in an attempt to provide clarity, I mistakenly sent out an internal staff memo detailing what can and cannot be done in a public school surrounding the holiday season,” Sinclair wrote in the email obtained by WOWT. “I wanted to reach out and make sure our families understand what occurred, and what has been done to correct the issue,” she continued. “I understand that the information I initially provide was incorrect and I sincerely apologize for any confusion of concern this has caused and the negative attention this issue brings to the District and Manchester.”

The next day, Sinclair was placed on administrative leave by the school district, CNN reports.

School district spokeswoman Kara Perchal told CNN that Sinclair was in her first year as an employee at Elkhorn Public Schools

"Due to the fact that this is an ongoing personnel issue, the district cannot comment further,” Perchal stated.

The school district also issued a statement to media on the matter saying that the “issue was limited to Manchester Elementary School and did not arise at any other schools within the District.”

Mat Staver, the founder of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, told the Associated Press that the legal nonprofit did intend to file a federal lawsuit against the school district had the school district not responded to its demand letter by last Monday.

“In our 30 years in existence, this memo is the most egregious we’ve ever seen, just given its length and scope,” Staver was quoted as saying.

Justin Knight of the law offices of Perry, Guthery, Haase and Gessford, which represents the school district, told the Liberty Counsel in his response letter that applicable board policy does allow “certain Christmas symbols” and that the administration will work with the Manchester staff to “to correct any erroneous communications and clarify any misunderstandings.”.

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