Christmas Decorations Come Down at Benicia High, Then Go Up

The decision to remove the decorations was made on Monday and the decision to put up decorations honoring Christmas and other traditions was made on Tuesday.

The controversy surrounding the holiday came to a head this morning when students arrived to find all the holiday decorations taken down after a campus club protested the one dimensional theme of the decorating.

The first to protest the decoration take down was 17-year-old senior Tori Compton who started the Occupy Christmas protest at the high school this morning. Prior to learning that the decorations would be going back up Compton said, “We’re protesting the fact that the decorations had to come down.”

“We feel we have a right to say we’re offended at not having a Christmas tree,” said Compton.

“We’re stoked that the decorations are going back up,” said Danica Sheets when Principal Gary Jensen made the announcement that an agreement had been reached.  “We were threatened with suspension and arrest because of the protest.”

According to the school's ACLU club membership wanted more decorations representing a wider range of religious and cultural traditions.  The letter made it clear the club did not want the decorations taken down.

Jensen met with the school’s Leadership class Monday morning to try and determine how the class members could incorporate other religions in their decorating scheme.

“The leadership class chose to take everything down because they didn’t want a religious theme,” said Jensen.  “We had a healthy discussion at the leadership class.”

According to Austin Carr, a member of the Leadership class, the decision to take the decorations down was made because the students weren’t sure what they were legally required to do, but once the legal cases used to set precedent were understood the group felt they could put decorations up in a way that was both festive and legal.

“We had to take them down because we didn’t have full knowledge,” said Carr.

conducted by Benicia Patch showed that a majority of those who voted wanted to add the new decorations rather than take all the holiday symbols down.

ric small December 06, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Hey kids, welcome to the "adult" world of "I'm right, you're wrong....or maybe not". Personally, i believe it's a good thing that the students had to look at this issue and see if there were any legal ramifications to having a tree up. But i also personally don't understand how a tree is a religious symbol. No one is nailed to the tree. I didn't see any religious items hanging from it. There were quite a few threads last week regarding this issue, and i thought it was a pretty good idea to put up a couple of different trees, including an Evolution tree (hey, that was my idea) or a Hanakkah tree or a Kwanzaa tree. Am i pro-evolution? No, but who cares? Seeing an Evolution tree wouldn't make me believe or dis-believe in evolution anymore than i do now. So why would a (gulp) Christmas tree sway someone towards a relationship with Christ? Actually, if seeing the word Christ or God offends anyone, i would be happy to take those $1, $5, or even $50 or $100 bills off of your hands. Heaven forbid someone looked at the words "In God We Trust" and converted. Peace, <><
Frank Cassese December 06, 2011 at 11:40 PM
Does this mean that on Presidents Day we are going to have to celebrate Vice Presidents, Sec. of State and so on just because someone feels left out? I celebrate Christmas as the symbol of the birth of CHRIST. That is my God given right as is the right of ANYONE to celebrate ANYTHING in this great country, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. If you don't like the way things are done then you also have the right to leave and go to a country where the Holiday you select is celebrated (try it). Christmas is a Christian religious Holiday. The ignorance of some people to deny this from those that choose to celebrate it is ridiculous.
Jeff Schwartz December 06, 2011 at 11:51 PM
There is distinct separation between church and state in this country. That being said BHS is a public schools being supported by taxpayers of all religious backgrounds. I have no problem with "Holiday" decorations going up as long as all of these various people are represented.....it is either all or nothing. The commentators above have the choice of sending their children to a variety of religious schools where those separate holidays can be celebrated singly without incident or protest.
School Employee & Benicia resident December 07, 2011 at 12:01 AM
I had to smile when I saw the students today. They were peaceful and respectful and I thought it was heavy-handed to threaten them with arrest or suspension. Then the principal came over and had a respectful discussion, and I believe the the Supt. came also to politely talk to the students, which was the proper way to use this "teaching moment" and discuss the issue. I see nothing wrong with celebrating everyone's holiday beliefs and feel the rights of all faiths should be considered.
Marnix A. van Ammers December 07, 2011 at 12:15 AM
Nice that they managed to settle this right on St. Nicholas day.
Toby December 07, 2011 at 05:01 AM
So we've officially ran out of things to complain about huh? So they were Christmas decorations, so what? Doesn't a 17 year old have anything better to do than complain about Christmas decorations?
Marnix A. van Ammers December 07, 2011 at 07:01 AM
I didn't think a Christmas tree was a religious symbol, but I think it's nice that these students were looking out for the religious minorities. Too often the sensitivities of minorities aren't considered. Good job ACLU club.
Local One December 07, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I hope that the children who requested that the decorations be removed remain committed to their cause throughout the holiday season and forgo the presents this year. The latest iphone, ipod or video game sitting under the holiday tree would certainly be an offensive reminder of the religious nature of the season... Stand on your principles kids and say no to the presents!
JB Davis (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 09:08 PM
I'm pretty sure no one asked that the decorations be removed. The ACLU kids were very specific that they wanted to expand the decorations so they were more inclusive. If you look at the letter from the girls who started the Occupy Christmas protest they were thankful for the support from the ACLU club. http://patch.com/A-pqBJ
Mike December 07, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Another deep thinker.
Bruce Rockwell December 08, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Nobody's denying anything to anybody Frank. We all have the good fortune to live in a country where you could choose to enroll, or your children could enroll, in a private religious school that gave you the right to celebrate the holiday season in whatever manner you see fit. But since 1791 our government has had a constitutional mandate to remain neutral in religious matters. So a public school observance of the holiday season either needs to be completely secular, or completely inclusive. Especially when you consider that our society is increasingly less Christian, and that Protestant Christianity isn't even a majority anymore, I think that level of basic tolerance and respect for others is just common sense. Thankfully there seems to be some common sense at BHS.
Insider December 08, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Once again, you can not make everyone happy! There will always be one who has more/less, represented/ not represented. All we can be hopeful for is that we do all that we can to create balance. No matter what the choice, there will be a group of individuals who feel left out. The far right and far left lhave yet to believe in this concept.


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