Public schools across our country continue to be challenged at every turn in regard to the Establishment Clause and the principles of separation of church and state. In many cases, these challenges gain media attention and ultimately the challenge often gets addressed by the actions of compromise, by the inaction of apathy, or in some cases by a simple lack of information.
On multiple occasions as a public school superintendent in Missouri, I have been challenged in regard to how to publicly and officially define the “break” taken around Christmas Day, December 25th. Those who pose as bell ringers of an Establishment Clause violation assert that the options of “Holiday” or “Winter” should replace the designation of “Christmas” on the official school calendar. Although some may view this as subtle, I consider this a significant decision.
In addressing this decision, I have referenced the National Archives (www.archives.gov) in order to clarify the appropriate, official, and legal name and designation to use in regard to Christmas Day, December 25. Each year, the Federal Archives provides a list of official Federal Holidays. On that list, the December 25th official holiday is referred to as Christmas Day. It is also very important to note that, although institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses often choose to use other names, it is Federal Law (5 U.S.C. 6103) to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.
I have been blessed throughout my career to serve in public school districts in which the Board of Education has agreed with my personal position (and legal reference) that this break should indisputably remain designated as Christmas Break on the public school calendar.
Official public school calendars in Missouri must be approved each year by the local, publicly elected Board of Education. How is the official Federal Holiday of Christmas Day recognized in your district?
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy, safe, healthy, and prosperous 2015!