principal," said school board member Serene Stokes.
Parents at Mariners Elementary School were told to take down strings
of colored and white lights they had put up at the school after a
community member complained to school board president Dana Black on
"We need this good communication between community and parents,"
Stokes added. "I think they really should have consulted the principal
first -- that's where I think it was inappropriate."
Parents took the lights down at Black's request but felt the district
had made the wrong decision, saying the lights were festive and not
"We thought it was a season type of thing," said Lisa Boler, a
Mariners parent and president of the Harbor Council PTA. "To me, lights
symbolize winter and not Christmas. But you have to be careful, you don't
want to offend anyone."
That has been the school board's goal in all holiday festivities, said
trustee Martha Fluor, adding that there have been many similar issues
over the years.
"As a school board, our holiday programs encompass all celebrations --
from Kwanzaa to Hanukkah to Christmas," Fluor said. "All our winter
programs need to be sensitive to many diverse cultures. Traditionally,
the lights tend to be a Christian symbol. Whether that's good or bad,
true or false, that's the perception out there."
Black's request to remove the lights has some parents cheering, but
even more exasperated.
"I think it's ridiculous," said Heather Hovis, a Mariners parent. "I
have three kids at Mariners, and they've been singing Hanukkah and
dreidel songs for years now, and I took no offense."
Hovis said she didn't care if the lights were displayed but was
offended that parents were told they couldn't have them up.
Supt. Robert Barbot said the district would not tell schools if they
could hang lights or not, but he added that he would reiterate to the
principals the need to be sensitive to the community.
"I don't believe this is the kind of issue you can address and fix at
a district level," he said. "We'll probably review with our employees the
need to respect the differences in the community and find ways to work
together to resolve conflicts."