Local superintendent plans to keep Christmas in classroom - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local superintendent plans to keep Christmas in classroom

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

A local superintendent wants parents to know his schools will not stop celebrating Christmas in the classroom. He sent a letter to remind them it's perfectly legal.

"We know you can say 'Merry Christmas' and we will continue to say 'Merry Christmas' in the buildings and throughout," said Martin Ringstaff, superintendent of Cleveland City Schools.

The halls are decked with a holiday theme at Ross Elementary in Cleveland. You can see signs of Christmas outside every classroom.

But all the Christmas cheer hasn't made every parent happy. Several phone calls sparked Ringstaff to address Christmas in the classroom in a note home to parents.

"We thought it was best to go ahead and address it now, saying 'here's what's allowed' and 'here's what's not allowed'," he said.

According to federal court rulings, schools do not have to rename Christmas or call it something else. The First Amendment protects Christmas caroling in school, and holiday displays like trees and Santa Claus are ok. However, religious symbols like nativity scenes and Bible verses are not.

"We're not trying to push one certain religion over another, and that's not what it's about," said Ringstaff. "It is what culturally happens in the United States."

Teachers like Gwen Turpin incorporate Christmas into classroom lessons.

"Some of the children talk about Santa and his elves, and we talk about all of that in the classroom as well," Turpin said.

Parent, John Shamblin, told Eyewitness News he doesn't have a problem with Christmas in the classroom.

"It doesn't bother me a bit," Shamblin said. "The kids like having the parties and things."

His third-grader, Kaiden, told Channel 3 that school Christmas celebrations are fun.

"You get to play with your friends and stuff, and you get to eat!"

Ringstaff said classrooms will have their Christmas parties this Friday, before winter break.

"We're proud of the traditions in the country of America, and we will back that."

For a list of laws addressing holidays in public schools, click here.

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