Tampa, FL -- In recent years, we've seen school systems try to accommodate religious holidays by being more inclusive.
For example, along with Christmas this year, kids in lots of classrooms will probably be talking about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. But at Hillsborough Community College's Children Development Center they've set-off a controversy by announcing a policy to exclude traditional holidays.
It all started last week, when the center sent out an email letting parents and faculty know they were cancelling this year's very popular Fall Walk, which is a Halloween-like celebration for the kids.
But there was more.
The kids may be oblivious to it, but their parents and staffers are not.
The controversial email from Center Coordinator Eunice Lopez informed them that, "After a careful review of our current program philosophy.. [we] will no longer be partaking in the celebration of traditional holidays."
"That's where we would encourage the families to participate with the children in bringing that to the center, but that's not necessarily our role to teach that," said HCC Spokesperson Ashley Carl.
Carl says the decision was made in part because the school is publicly-funded and therefore doesn't promote a particular religious belief.
Adding, "it's to stay true to the accredited national curriculum followed by HCC, and their position on holidays is that you take a more seasonal-based approach."
Carl said families are encouraged to come in and share their holiday beliefs and traditions, but the change has not been well received by some parents or staffers who see nothing wrong with learning about traditional holidays.
"I think some of the parents are really upset," said Karen Schmid, who sends her two-year-old daughter to the school.
Schmid says she's heard opinions for and against the policy.
"It's very different from what it was when I was a kid, and I think my childhood was really fun because of all these activities," she said.
Some staff members with HCC have also responded in emails. One worker even cited biblical scripture to question why traditional holy days would be disregarded.
Gwendolyn Parson, with HCC's early childhood development program, responded by encouraging parents to read an article from 1990 for a better understanding.
The article argues that young kids have a difficult time understanding holidays. That it's hard to be inclusive, and that "many holidays are overdone anyway".
It suggests instead celebrating seasonal milestones, like a first tooth, tying shoelaces, worms, the color red, or the first snowflake.
Carl said there's absolutely nothing wrong with traditional holidays, "we're just taking a much broader approach and we're encouraging the families to bring their traditions to the development centers."
"I do like diversity, though," said Schmid. "I want my kids to be educated in everything."
HCC says instead of its Halloween-themed Fall Walk, this year, they'll have a fall festival. Costumes yes, but no trick-or-treating.
The school offered an apology to those looking forward to the Walk, and said it's open to suggestions on how to make the festival a success.
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