As the holidays are nearing, student sections are beginning to incorporate holidays into their themes. Olentangy, for example, had a Christmas themed student section for one of their recent football games.
In 1962, the court case Engel v. Vitale ruled that voluntary prayer in public schools violates students’ First Amendment rights of freedom of religion. Ohio Law also reiterated that, a public school cannot promote a single religion to be accepted among students. Many are wondering why school officials recommend recognizing all religious holidays celebrated in December, but a Christmas theme student section is allowed.
The student section attends athletic events, which are school sanctioned events. Therefore, the same rules should apply. If in class, recognition of Christian holidays and support for them are not allowed, then the same should go for all other school-sanctioned events.
According to a 2017 report from Pew Research Center, approximately 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but only 46 percent of those people celebrate the holiday religiously.
Even though 90 percent of the population is a lot of people, there are still other holidays that people may religiously or non-religiously celebrate.
Our high school is the most diverse high school in the district, and our students come from very diverse backgrounds. This means that students participate in many different cultural celebrations and those should all be recognized just as much as Christmas is. Having a Christmas theme could lead to students who celebrate different holidays being underappreciated in our school, which ultimately leads to the fact that many people are ignorant in understanding the holidays of religions other than Christianity.
There are many other holidays that occur around the same time as Christmas, and as a public school, we should foster appreciation of them as well, if we’re going to continue to appreciate Christmas.
For example, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration which according to CNN “Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians and the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem around 165 BC.”This holiday also takes place in December and is celebrated by approximately 7.2 million people in the U.S. according to the American Jewish Population Project at Brandeis University.
Other holidays around this time include Diwali, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa and the Chinese New Years.
In order to make sure events such as the student section during games is inclusive to all students, we believe that the theme should be a “holiday” theme in order for all students to feel included and give everyone an opportunity to express their beliefs without confining to something they may not believe in.
Our high school has already started to adapt to this idea by having an all inclusive holiday themed basketball game, which will hopefully lead the way for many other schools in the area to make the change.