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Archive for Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Bell: Seasonal decorations top holiday highlights; last day for teacher thank yous; all-girl opera takes on bullying

December 16, 2010

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Snowmen, snowflakes and various snow scenes are appropriate decorative warmups for winter break in the Lawrence school district.

Santas? Menorahs? Nativity scenes? Not so much — at least not when standing alone.

“Don’t be religion specific,” advises Dave Cunningham, the district’s director of legal services, human relations and policy. He’s the one who answers questions about whether someone can put up a Christmas tree in the school office, post “Merry Christmas” on a school sign or highlight any particular religious observation on school property.

Principals make the initial calls, and they’ve become increasingly comfortable about the limits — of both the law and good sense — over the years, Cunningham said.

Teachers certainly may discuss various holidays from various cultures, provided that such classwork covers many different observations and traditions, from an educational perspective.

“You could include conversations about different kinds of symbolism,” Cunningham said, “but that has to be neutral.”

For Frank Harwood, the district’s chief operations officer, the choice is relatively simple: “Seasonal decorations” generally are OK, while “holiday decorations” generally are not.

“The issue is that holidays have denotations for different people in different ways,” Harwood said. “It doesn’t come up very often. Lawrence, as a community, tends to be more inclusive in these kinds of things. When you start bringing in a particular holiday you’re actually being exclusive, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”

•••

With winter break arriving with Friday’s final bell, there’s still time to forward along some words of thanks regarding a thoughtful teacher, a dedicated staffer or a selfless volunteer — in your school, your extracurricular activities, your district overall.

Send me a quick note and I’ll do my best to include a few thoughts right here, in Friday’s edition of “First Bell.” Send me an e-mail — mfagan@ljworld.com — or leave me a voicemail, at 832-7188.

•••

Bullying has been on the minds of legislators, members of the Kansas State Board of Education and officials and teachers closer to home.

And next month, an opera will bring the issues to life.

GaDuGi SafeCenter, the Lawrence Arts Center, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and collaborative partner Willow Domestic Violence Center are working to stage a special production, “One False Move,” at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at the arts center, 740 N.H.

The show, billed as “an original all-girl opera about bullying,” is described by GaDuGi officials as “especially important for girls but equally powerful for students” in elementary through high school. Attendees will be able to participate in an after-show discussion about the issues raised during the opera.

“Do not miss the opportunity to introduce your girls to see and enjoy opera sung by their peers and engage in discussion about relational aggression,” said Christie Dobson, arts outreach coordinator at GaDuGi.

For more information, contact the arts center, 843-2787.

— Is there something you'd like to see in First Bell? I'm always open to suggestions, so let me know: mfagan@ljworld.com.

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