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A Letter to Bill Kimball & MRUSD re: Statement on equitable holiday celebration.

On December 2nd 2021, Superintendent Bill Kimball released a statement detailing the Maple Run Unified School District’s request that classrooms “…not host any holiday celebrations or post any holiday symbols in classrooms and school sponsored activities.” This is explained via the intention to uphold values of equity, to “call out systems of inequity” and “honor inclusion of all students and families.” (full statement)

We in NSSA Leadership believe that Superintendent Kimball’s decision to remove holiday celebrations and holiday symbols from classrooms is counter to the spirit of inclusion and belonging, and it removes what should be an opportunity for students to learn about and celebrate religious and cultural differences.

We urge Superintendent Kimball and MRUSD to take an educational approach, rather than one of erasure: engage students, teachers, and staff in an exploration of various cultural and religious holidays; involve community members who celebrate these holidays and holy days in the planning of said events, celebrations, and learning opportunities; and, communicate to students, employees, and families the importance of learning about and valuing difference.

We also believe that Superintendent Kimball’s decision reflects a lack of understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. This is disconcerting in the greater context of MRUSD’s decision to dissolve their Equity Committee, following the appointment of the first Black Co-Chair. We call on the MRUSD to reinstate the Equity Committee and charge it with addressing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the curriculum, culture, and operations of the MRUSD.

In the spirit of building community, we encourage all those in St. Albans and beyond to learn about and embrace the holidays and holy days of our neighbors. Equity and inclusion do not come from the silencing of voices, but from the joyful organization of all voices together, into chorus.

Neighbors for a Safer Saint Albans Leadership:

Reese Kelly
Tanner McCuin
Eliana Castro
Lauren Dees-Erickson
Reier Erickson
Mareesa Miles
Zach Scheffler

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One comment

  1. Full Statement by Bill Kimball:

    From: Bill Kimball
    Date: December 2, 2021
    Re: Winter Celebrations

    As a unified school district, MRUSD has been examining many of its practices through the lens of equity and equality. This time of year we take this opportunity to reflect on our practices for holiday celebrations.

    MRUSD honors the academic value of studying various religions through specified and district planned curricula, but not the appropriation or endorsement of any particular religion or belief system, or of religion over non-religion.

    It is our role as educators to respond to and validate family traditions as they emerge from our students, and as such need to be self-educated around these traditions so as to support factual conversations as they originate from our students. We encourage the advancement of our students’ knowledge of, and appreciation for the role that religious heritage has played, continues to play, in the social, cultural, and historical development of civilization.

    MRUSD recognizes that a school environment is a place for children and families of different backgrounds and beliefs, as well as the increasing diversity of religious faith and expression present in our community and prevents the effect of marginalization of minority members of the school community.
    Curriculum planning should include the study of religions, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education, which can enhance student understanding and appreciation of diverse religious beliefs and practices. It is incumbent on teachers to teach about religion broadly, respectfully, and inclusively. This does not mean mentioning a variety of religions in the corresponding month that they are celebrated.

    Teaching about religious holidays is permissible if following an approved contextual curriculum. This differs from celebrating religious holidays. It is not appropriate to have decorations present in school that can be interpreted as a religious symbol (i.e. Christmas trees).

    One of my responsibilities as Superintendent is to look at our educational system through an equity lens and call out systems on inequity. Celebrations of winter holidays sponsored by our classrooms, schools, or districts do not honor inclusion of all students and families. It is the responsibility of all of us to create an inclusive school system by disrupting systems of inequity. Therefore, I am requesting the schools of Maple Run not host any holiday celebrations or post any holiday symbols in classrooms and school sponsored activities.

    Thank you for your commitment to equity, for your inclusion of all students and continued dedication to the Maple Run Community.

    Always keep kids first!!
    Bill Kimball
    Superintendent of Schools
    Maple Run Unified School District
    28 Catherine Street
    St. Albans, VT 05478
    (802) 524-2600 x3938
    (802) 524-1540 Fax
    pronouns: he/him/his

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