The Wallingford-Swarthmore School District sent a memo on Friday to bus drivers and bus aides telling them not to decorate for Christmas or wear Christmas-themed clothing.
In the memo, Supervisor of Transportation Patti Diaferio said Superintendent Wagner Marseille “has been receiving complaints from parents concerning District employees displaying ‘Christmas’ themed decorations and wearing clothing of the same nature.”
“If you have decorated your buses with anything specific to the Christmas Holiday or any other decorations relating to a specific religion, please remove them immediately. In addition, employees are instructed not to wear clothing related to Christmas or any other religious holiday,” Diferio wrote.
Also, “District Offices and schools buses are to refrain from playing Christmas music or any other music related to a specific religion…It applies to all district employees.”
Diaferio confirmed to DVJournal that she sent the memo, saying Marseille had received complaints “from some community members about specific religious holidays, and he just asked that everybody stop decorating with the theme directly related to a certain holiday. In this case, it’s mainly a Christian holiday, but there are Jewish holidays, too, according to Diaferio. And it upsets people with different religious beliefs.
“That’s why I think we stopped calling it Christmas Break. We call it Winter Break now.”
Neither Marseille nor the district’s spokeswoman, Rachel Riley, responded to requests for additional comment.
Asked to react to the district’s policy, Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County Republican Committee, said, “It’s an example of the pendulum swinging too far.”
“I don’t know where it ends, really. I don’t know of any other school districts that are doing this. It seems like folks are picking winners and losers. That’s the society we’re living in. It’s no harm to anyone.”
Dave Galluch, a Delaware County resident who ran for Congress as a Republican, called Wallingford-Swarthmore’s ban on Christmas “an extreme step.”
“I really can’t imagine that anyone would concur with it,” said Galluch. “I don’t think anyone takes offense to hearing a Christmas carol like ‘Joy to the World’ or ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ on the radio, on a bus, and describes it as some sort of attempt of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District to push Christianity on students.”
“But according to that memo, presumably a bus driver who doesn’t turn off ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ is in violation of the school district policy,” said Galluch. “I’m not a lawyer, but I think you could certainly argue First Amendment issues.”
“I think we’re reaching a point of peak departure from common sense,” Galluch added. “Christmas is a federally recognized holiday.”
And it’s just one of several winter holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
“I would be surprised if any parents were complaining,” Galluch said. “There’s a small but loud minority that likes to try to weaponize everything, and unfortunately, it looks like Christmas is not immune either.”