ADL Equips Public Schools with Guidance to Mediate the “December Dilemma”

New York, NY, December 8, 2014 … To assist public schools and other government institutions to navigate sensitive issues raised by the December holiday season, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has provided informative materials on appropriate holiday displays and practices to public school educators and other officials.

In letters issued to public school superintendents and local government officials across the country, ADL provided information on how to respect religious diversity while also complying with constitutional requirements, often referred to as the “December Dilemma.”

“The holiday season has the potential to pose difficult and sensitive scenarios in various government settings,” said Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. “Our goal is to encourage public schools to create a welcoming environment that celebrates inclusiveness.”

The League’s 27 regional offices across the country are maintaining contact with school district officials, urging them to be cautious in how they employ religious symbols and teach about the holidays.  Letters sent to school districts throughout the country explain how teachers and administrators can adhere to the U.S. Constitution while establishing a setting which respects observance of the holidays.

“It is also particularly important that during the holiday season, public schools remain cognizant of activities that may give rise to religious coercion,” said Ms. Lauter. “Schools should be hospitable to students from a vast range of backgrounds - students of all faiths and students of no faith. These guidelines are a useful resource to keep December celebrations inclusive and welcoming for all.”

Some of the issues outlines in detail by ADL include:

  • The difference between practicing religion and teaching about religion
  • Guidelines for holiday assemblies, concerts and other public school activities where religious themes or music may be performed
  • Choosing appropriate holiday activities and symbols to decorate school grounds

ADL’s communique to government officials responsible for public buildings and courthouse displays offers guidance about the placement of appropriate holiday symbols.  A “Quick Guide to Religious Displays,” was provided which helps public officials to understand displays that are constitutionally appropriate during the holiday season.

For more information and a detailed explanation of the “December Dilemma” holiday issues, see “Teaching About Religious Holidays – “The December Dilemma” in ADL’s publication, Religion in the Public Schools.