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'Merry Christmas' law helps El Paso school districts

By: Ruben Veloz

EL PASO, TexasThere is a new law in Texas that makes it legal for employees in public schools to say "Merry Christmas," without facing backlash.

It's called the "Merry Christmas Law," and it is being put to the test in parts of the borderland.

Texas lawmakers passed it hoping that it would protect schools from lawsuits.

The president of the El Paso teachers association tells KFOX14 she doesn't think the law was necessary, but said it gives teachers more guidance.

"If you look in district policy, there really isn't anything that addresses colleagues or students telling each other merry Christmas or happy holidays or happy Chanukah," said Norma de la Rosa.

House Bill 308 was written by Houston representative Dwayne Bohac.

It passed unanimously in the Senate, and was signed by Gov. Rick Perry in June.

The law also allows school districts to teach students about the history of traditional winter celebrations without being sued.

"As educators we never really been taught as we've gone through our courses about how to teach the holidays or the holiday season. It's just something that we've learned to do as we learned to plan our lessons," said de la Rosa.

De la Rosa tells KFOX14 that in her 38 years of teaching experience, Christmas displays have never been a problem in El Paso school districts.

"I think parents on the most part would probably say what was the big deal, because they get involved in it it too, with what goes on in school," said de la Rosa.

KFXO14 spoke with El Pasoans about the law, and many of them didn't see it being a problem in the borderland.

"We have different kind of religions in the world and I think you have to respect that," said west El Paso resident, Rocio Villalobos.

"Here I think people are open to different types of cultures just because we are in the border and we share other culture," said Carlos Escarcega.

The law also allows schools to display nativity scenes on campus.

However, there are a few rules school districts need to follow.

Texas schools can have a Christmas-related display only if it includes another religious holiday display like a menorah, but the holiday displays cannot contain a message forcing a student to observe a certain religion.

De la Rosa de believes El Paso school districts do a good job teaching students to be diverse and be respectful of other religions.

"I think that El Paso is has to be very proud of itself in the fact that we are respectful of each other and our traditions," said De la Rosa.

KFOX14 reached out to several Independent school districts in El Paso county about the new law.

Canutillo ISD responded with this statement.

"The Canutillo ISD administration or Board of Trustees have not discussed HB 308 in any mannerWinter holiday greetings have never been an issue with our parents or students. We have a strong multi-cultural community that learns to respect diversity through our No Place For Hate program. Our students have the ability and right to greet friends and teachers as they see fit in regards to the winter holidays, whether it is with a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah or Happy Holidays."

 

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