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EUGENE, Ore. – An Oregon school board had to call off its meeting after more than 100 angry parents stormed the district office and yelled at board members.
The reason for Monday’s outrage: No more school parties for Valentine’s Day.
In the past, students celebrated Feb. 14 with the traditional exchange of cards and candy. But the Bethel School District in Eugene has been phasing out those traditions, The Register-Guard reported.
District officials said that organized holiday parties often end up excluding children whose parents don’t have the means to buy valentines, as well as students who don’t do well in a party setting or have a religious objection.
“As a public school system, we can’t intentionally plan events that we know will exclude children,” District spokesman Pat McGillivray said. “Schools are thinking creatively about how we celebrate with children and how we can have those activities at school where everyone gets to participate.”
McGillivray said each school in the district is taking a different approach to recognizing the virtues that Valentine’s Day celebrates, such as kindness and love. For instance, some schools are having friendship week, kindness month and buddy days, he said.
But reinventing traditions doesn’t sit well with some parents. They noted that Bethel district students no longer wear costumes for Halloween, and Thanksgiving celebrations have been renamed “harvest parties.”
“It’s not just about Valentine’s Day,” said Ryan Hosek, a parent of two students. “They’re isolating the majority of kids’ feelings for the sake of a few, and that’s just not how the world works.
“The lesson to be learned is to appreciate the difference and not ignore them because they make a small minority of people offended.”
Though Monday’s meeting was quickly adjourned, parents and others will have a chance to express their opinions at a special board meeting Thursday night.
McGillivray said everyone who requests to speak will be heard.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com