The Christian program gives gifts to children all over the world during the holidays.
Some parents said it was a first amendment violation, which then prompted the school district to remove working on the project during class time.
Principal Andy Jados released the following statement:
Some parents have contacted us with concern about high school students in the Spanish Club participating in a project for Operation Christmas Child during the school day. There are two issues with this that we have remedied: first, students can still participate but their participation is voluntary, not mandatory. Second, students who wish to participate must collect and assemble materials during their own time, not during instructional time.
Further, while Operation Christmas Child is a religious-based program, it is important to note that our participation and involvement is not. Our hope is that students and families will use their own best judgment in doing what is right for them.
In the meantime, the Spanish Club will meet next week, after school hours, on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 2:30-4:00 to finalize the project. Those wishing to participate can turn their boxes into any Spanish teacher if they choose to finish their boxes at home.”
Sophomore Moira Elliot created the online petition in support of keeping Operation Christmas Child in the classroom.
“We all like helping people, so a hit to us helping people is really frustrating,” she said. “In class when we do this there’s no mention of church at all whatsoever or religion, except the word ‘Christmas’. That’s the only thing that’s brought up because it’s Operation Christmas Child.”
Senior Nathan Hobbs agrees.
“The most important lessons in life don’t come from a textbook,” he said.
Dozens of students and parents protested outside of the school Wednesday, including Gretchen Hofer.
“I do not see the non-profit, Christian organization being in conflict with our schools because it’s doing charitable work,” said Hofer. “It’s a humanitarian act to help people in other countries, just like we help people in our country.”
Parent Matt Sutton said he brought the issue to administrators.
I love my community and my school district, but more importantly, our rights and freedoms as outlined in the US Constitution. I am a firm believer that all of our rights should be protected…yes, this includes religious freedoms. Our Constitution is not a “buffet”-style document where we merely ignore the freedoms with which we don’t agree. Military personnel give their lives for these very freedoms on a daily basis and are praised, deservedly so. In contrast, I have placed a simple phone call to a school system that was in violation of a very basic First Amendment guarantee and the backlash has been palpable.
I would like to thank the school for acknowledging the infringement, swiftly rectifying the issue and proceeding in accordance with the law.
In our secular society, everyone should be free to attend a public school without any state endorsement of a particular faith. Thomas Jefferson and the US court system have been very clear on this matter.
I have personally reached out to offer alternative, secular organizations to whom I would orchestrate a donation. I personally find this more appealing as there are no inserted mission statements, ulterior motives or otherwise strings attached. I have had no response.