Political Correctness and KISD

I could go on and on about this, but I have a bunch of deadlines looming.  Thanks to Big Bob for sending this along:

KELLER, Texas – Christmas by any other name is just not the same.

At least that’s what the mother of a Chisholm Trail Intermediate School sixth grader thinks. She managed to put some of the spirit of Christmas back into her son’s holiday choir program.

Carissa Johnson said her son Steven has been working all year on his choir program. He’ll sing a solo in the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

“When my dad was a kid he actually sang the same solo as me and I though it would be really cool if I could sing that,” Steven said.

But the whole thing hit a sour note for the 11-year-old when his school told him the word winter would replace Christmas in the song.

The Keller Independent School District said it walks a fine line on religious issues and has to be careful not to push any religious belief over another.

“There’s still the issue that their policy identifies Christmas in the grouping of winter religious and customary holidays,” Johnson said.

In a statement the district lists several holidays including Halloween and Thanksgiving, but instead uses the term “winter religious / customary celebrations” in place of Christmas.

The statement also says “instruction involving holidays should remain neutral in nature without direct evidence of religious preference.”

Eventually the Keller ISD stepped in to take the chill off and told Steven’s mom his school misinterpreted the districts regulations. Christmas is back in the lyrics.

“They agreed to put it back in on the basis of copyright laws,” Johnson said. “She also advised me that they were probably gonna remove some other songs to keep it culturally balanced and probably have to add some other songs.”

The district said it must remain sensitive to everyone in its very diverse population.

There is a video at the link.

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10 responses to “Political Correctness and KISD

  • Barb

    Too bad. They even sing religious
    Christmas carols at school concerts here.

  • Randy Leake

    I am tired of this political correctness. There is nothing wrong with Christmas in the schools. The left wing liberals dominate this district decision making. I have checked with 2 other schools within the district. Their direction was very clear from central administration. Chisolm had it correct on what their instructions were from central administration from the beginning. Just curious about how the individual boards member feel. Oh, I forgot Dr. V wags their tails!!

  • Santa

    Just wondering if I should pass over Keller this year and double up presents for the kids in Southlake?

  • Old man Potter

    Santa: Stay away from the kids at Keller ISD. This is my turf!!!!!!

  • S.H. Robertson

    The Keller Independent School District (KISD) is correct in walking the fine on religious issues and being careful not to push any religious belief over another. This is not an issue of political correctness. Why? It is very simple. It is the law.

    Since 2003, I have complained to KISD Administration and tried to educate them about their obligation to comply with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another.

    My series of complaints to KISD have centered around the same issues that are occurring at Chisolm Trail Intermediate School. These issues include KISD having a majority of Christian themes in their KISD Fine Arts sponsored programs.

    My daughter, who is Jewish, was enrolled in a KISD Choir Program at her Middle School. Prior to the winter break, she was required to perform in a KISD sponsored Winter Choir Program as part of her course grade. The Choir Program included a majority Christmas selections focused on non-secular Christian themes. During the program, my daughter decided to leave the stage because she felt uncomfortable in singing songs that praised the Christian faith that directly conflicted with her own Jewish beliefs. In doing so, she was unfairly singled by her peers for refusing to sing songs that praised the Christian religion, all because of her Jewish faith.

    After several letters and meetings with KISD Administration and school officials, KISD finally agreed to be more sensitive in monitoring the religious content of their KISD Fine Arts Programs. However, change did not happen overnight. We continued have the same problems when my daughter reached Keller High School. While enrolled in their Choir Program, she was required to particiapte in the Madrigal Gala Program that was full of musical selections with Christian related themes. One such selection included the Hallelujah Chorus, which had content that meant to praise and promote Jesus Christ and the Christian religion.
    This generated another series of complaints to the KISD Administration regarding their lack of dilligence in monitoring religious content of these programs.

    Although KISD now finally appears to be trying to move in the right direction, it is evident that KISD had previously violated the Establishment Clause under the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution, as emphasized in several landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions [Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), Lee v. Wiseman, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992), and Sante Fe v. Doe U.S. 290 (2000)].

    If you remember, the Santa Fe Independent School District vs. Doe case happended right here in Texas and involved a student leading an audience in prayer over a public address system at a state-funded Texas high school football game. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this action to be unconstitutional and a violation of Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Requiring students to participate in school sponsored Choir Program which includes a majority of Christian religious themes is a similar violation and contrary to this U.S. Supreme Court decision.

    Furthermore, the content of these Choir Programs also violated KISD’s own Fine Arts Program Guideline regarding use of religious content in school sponsored programs. These guidelines require KISD Fine Arts Programs that include religious themes to also include a sampling of different religions. The programs in question only included only one religion (i.e., Christianity); therefore, it failed to meet KISD’s guidelines.

    Considering the above, I feel strongly that it is appropriate for KISD Administration to continue to make best efforts to monitor the religious content of their Fine Art Programs. There is clear documented history of violations that support this effort. Failure to continue to act and monitor the religious content of these programs may put KISD Administration at risk of a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit and lots of unwanted and unnecessary negative publicity.

    For those parents, students, and administrators that disagree with this assessment, then feel free to enroll or apply to work at a local private school where relgious allowances can be exercised. Equal protection under the law and freedom of choice…that is what makes America a great place to live.

  • Randy Leake

    S.H. Robertson I think you raise some great valid points whether I agree with them or not.

    I think the district was wrong in directing changes in a song which were copywrite violations. This is unexcuseable to break the law to accomondate one religous belief and quite frankly not using good common sense.

    I don’t buy off on using court rulings about prayers in this situation. In my opinion there is a big difference between having prayers that are mandatory led by school officials or student leaders than a voluntary holiday program open to the public.

    I sincerely hate your daughter was singled out by her peers for her refusal to participte in such programs. The district I thought had a policy of no one would be required to participate in such programs and would not be punished by the district which according to you she as not but by her peers. If you don’t like the program then don’t attend.

    On your last comment about parents leaving the district to go to a private school could also be said of your situation as well. I think this is a slap to all of us who have different beliefs but chose to support public schools.

    When I look at our drop out rates, drugs in our schools, teen pregnancies I personally feel part of this is due to the liberal agenda of taking our core beliefs and customs out of school system. Our kids are searching for direction and Christmas and Holiday Seasons helped in the past of this support.

  • Jim Carson

    S.H. Robertson,

    I thoroughly and emphatically endorse the idea that my tax dollars be given to you in the form of a voucher that you may use as you see fit in the education of your daughter.

    Will you join with me in this endeavor?

  • S.H. Robertson

    Randy Leake…Thank you for your feedback. I respect your position that you have presented on the issues that I have raised.

    I agree with you that KISD should not have directed the school to change the lyrics of a holiday song with copyrights. However, I also agree with KISD reviewing the content of this program to ensure that it complies with the intent of the Establishment Clause of our First Amendment as well as KISD’s Guidelines for using religious content in our Fine Arts Programs. I strong feel that KISD needs to sees our holidays as an opportunity to bring together different cultures and religions that make up our student body and to educate them on the diversity of the holidays that are celebrated by different groups in our community and throughout the world.

    As for not applying court rulings on prayer to this situation, I disagree. The decision in the Sante Fe Independent School District v. Doe case does in fact apply. Whether prayer is spoken in words over a loud speaker or included in a song, both are methods of establishing, endorsing and promoting one religion over another. Whenever a KISD Fine Arts program includes a majority of religious selections that serve to promote one religion, which has been the case in the past, KISD places itself at risk of a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit for violating Constitutional law.

    I would like to correct you on the issue regarding voluntary participation in KISD Choir programs. At the Middle and High School levels, these events are not voluntary and are considered a mandatory part of a student’s participation grade in their course. It does not matter if KISD has a policy not to punish students who refuse to participate in these programs. KISD should not put students in a position to choose to attend an event that violates their civil rights and that should not be performed in the first place. Case law clearly supports the fact that taxpayer monies should not be expended by public institutions to fund programs that violate Constitutional law, plain and simple.

    As for asking parents and students to leave the school system and go to private schools, I did not intend for my comment to be a slap against those students and parents with different beliefs that choose to attend our public schools. I applaud those parents and students that respect other religions and understand the cultural diversity in our schools. I simply meant to point out that those parents and students who feel so strongly about promoting their own religion beliefs in our public schools should choose to private school instead. This will allow them the freedom to practice their religious beliefs and customs in a private school setting consistent their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of our U.S. Constitution and not in a public school setting that violates the law.

    In regards to Jim Carson’s comments about school vouchers….No thanks, keep your taxes. School vouchers are not a solution for me. It is important to remind you that the public school system and the laws that govern it are on my side. Those parents that do not like these laws have always had the option to choose private school, if they can afford it, or home schooling. Why should I fund school vouchers for parents who disagree with the amount of religion in the public school curriculum? If a parent does not feel that public schools is including enough religion in their student’s education, then they should take the initiative to carve-out an extra hour out of their day to teach their child religion at home or through a church, mosque or synagogue of their choosing. Why should my tax dollars go to pay for school vouchers for parents who are not happy with the type of education provided to their children under the laws we all have created? Democracy is not always fair, but it is sure is a great equalizer.

    I also do not feel it is appropriate to ask me to leave our school system to go to a private school because I represent the minority in this matter. I am pleased to say that the majority does not rule in this case and that Constitutional law is again on my side on this issue, no matter how much conservatives and the moral majority would like to think otherwise. Unless you have 2/3 of the States to ratify an amendment to change our Constitution…then I would just learn to live with it.

    I also would not blame the liberal agenda for taking your core beliefs and customs out of our schools. The goal of the liberal agenda is to ensure all ethnic groups and religious faiths are represented fairly and equally in the process within our public schools consistent with the law. Who is to say that promoting your core beliefs and customs would be a better method of solving the problems of our students (i.e., drop out rates, drugs, and teen pregnancy)? I would argue that forcing your core beliefs and customs on our students who we are teaching to be independent thinkers would be counter productive to this cause. The only true way to address these problems is to learn to work together across social, ethnic, and religious lines and find common ground to collectively guide our students based on attainable social and academic goals.

    It clear to me that the general cause of these problems can be blamed on the lack of positive parenting at home. If school systems were able to come up with a magical way to teach good parenting skills at home, most of these problems would probably go away. Oh, I forgot. That would require us as parents to be more accountable for our actions. Hmm….What a scary thought, aye?

  • Jim Carson

    S.H., Admittedly my comment was very brief, but you’ve inferred a great deal about me that is not true. I am neither conservative nor part of any majority, moral or otherwise.

    I’m on your side in this debate. If we must have a one-size-fits-all school curriculum, I favor the total suppression of all prayer and religious symbolism therein. Although I’d argue that the word ‘Christmas’ has transcended its religious roots.

    Here’s a link to what I thought was another pretty good debate on the topic I had with a true conservative:

    http://kellercitylimits.com/?p=657#comment-34800

    Also, the Constitution requires the approval of three fourths of the States to ratify an amendment, not two thirds.

  • S.H. Robertson

    Jim,

    Good catch on the 3/4 vs. 2/3. It is true as you have stated. Final ratification of a Constitutional amendment takes 3/4 of the States. As further background, ratification of a Constitutional amendment is a two step process. Amendments must first be proposed and then ratified. Proposed amendments can come from two ways: 1) From a vote of 2/3 of each house of Congress or 2) From 2/3 of the state legislatures that demand one. Then, an amendment can be ratified if 3/4 of the States concur. I must have got rapped up in my rant and failed to quote the correct margin for approving final ratification of a Constitutional amendment.

    The debate that you shared with me with the true conservative in August 2008 was very topical to my concerns. Your position in this debate was very factual and spoke to the real reasons why separation of church and State is so critical to the rights and freedoms we all share as Americans. I especially enjoyed Mr. Snow dialogue as it provided a true historical perspective on how religions developed in our country and how we should incorporate religion within our public sector.

    I also applaud your one-size-fits-all comment. I would add that if KISD can’t incorporate religious themes in their curriculum, then I would agree they should adopt the policy of everyone checking their religion at the door. Not always fair to majority, but serves to protect the rights for us all.

    I also agree with your comment that the commercialism of Christmas has transcended its religious roots and has made it nearly a secular event. However, I would like to emphasize that KISD has failed in the past to adopt this philosophy for its Fine Arts Programs, which have been clearly been non-secular events.

    Judging from this latest publicity, it is my hope that KISD have finally begun to recognize their constitutional obligations to protect the rights of all students, not just the ones that go to church.

    Thanks for providing me this forum to share my views. As you can tell, I have had years of frustration in dealing with KISD on this issue. If others parents were in my place, they too would speak out like I have and protect the rights of their children. Again, that is what makes America a great place to live. Cheers!

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