One Place Santa Will Miss

December 23, 1992|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,Staff Writer

Santa Claus won't be coming to the Chatsworth School this year.

For the past three years, Santa -- the school custodian dressed in appropriate attire -- has paid a visit and the parents of children at the Baltimore County special education school have paid $2.50 for a photograph of their child in his lap.

The money has gone to a special fund that helps poor families of schoolchildren during the Christmas season.

He was scheduled to come again, but last week principal Sue Ockun canceled the event after hearing an objection from a parent on religious grounds.

"It was really a heart-rending decision," she said. "This was a totally voluntary activity that we had been doing for about three years. But I felt I needed to be sensitive to everyone's feelings. If one person was offended by what they saw as a religious figure, then others might feel the same way and not speak up.

"We try to teach all our children to be tolerant, to have an understanding of the differences in cultures.

"Sometimes decisions like this are part of that."

Spokeswoman Myra Treiber said the school system has no countywide policy on holiday celebrations.

"Under our school-based, on-site management policy, decisions like that would be up to the principal at each school," she said.

"We do have a multicultural approach, but what is offensive or inappropriate in one school in one part of the county might not be in another school."

Janie Davenport said that her 5-year-old son had been looking forward to the visit and that she was disappointed it wasn't going to happen.

"I don't understand why one or two parents could get this canceled," she said.

"I've talked to a lot of other parents who feel the same way, but when I talked to the principal, I was told there was no way the decision would be changed."

Ms. Ockun said that her main concern was the school's Christmas fund, but she said she has been able to make up the money through other fund-raising activities.

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