HILLSBORO, Ore. -- An Oregon school district's call to back off on the use of Santa in holiday decorating has stirred quite a controversy.
However, the Hillsboro School District said it's not banning old St. Nick from its halls. Rather, it only wants to make employees more conscious of other viewpoints.
"We will not be holding a door decorating contest this year," read a school district memo. "You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus."
District spokeswoman Beth Graser said the memo was sent to secondary principals as a reminder to be sensitive about the environments created in the school over the holiday season.
"We were NOT banning Santa, nor were we going to be the 'decorations police' and scold people if they happened to have decorations up that might be too Christmas-y," Graser said, "unless they were totally over the top."
If a classroom turns into the Christmas version of a haunted house and you have to walk down candy cane lane then that's a different story.”
The story caught on through social media and sparked a larger conversation about which imagery should and shouldn't be allowed in schools.
Graser added there has been no policy change on the matter and it was meant to ensure that a yearly door decorating contest didn't get out of hand.
"Quite honestly the 'competition' aspect meant that several of the decorations had gotten excessive," she said. "As a result, we had some staff members and visitors to our building indicate that they were uncomfortable and didn’t feel welcome due to the overwhelming Christmas atmosphere that had been created."
Graser said public schools have a responsibility to ensure all students feel comfortable.
"We need to create inclusive and welcoming spaces for all of our students and realize that many of our students—because of their religion, culture, or other beliefs—do not feel comfortable (and in many cases may not be allowed by their parents) participating in activities that are holiday-based or religious in nature, or being surrounded by imagery that is a direct affront to them," she said.
Copyright 2016 WFMY