Principal apologises for saying 'Christmas'

This matter was front-page news in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 11th. and was seen as an outrage. Even Leftist politicians were critical of the apology. Isolated malcontents got far more attention than they deserved

A school principal has apologised for overusing the word "Christmas" in a controversy branded political correctness gone crazy. Queensland's Yeppoon State School head Laurelle Allen wrote the apology after a family claimed she had discriminated against them by using "Christmas" too many times in school newsletters. Paul and Melanie Jowsey, whose children Charles, 10, and Harrison, 8, attend the central Queensland school, do not celebrate Christmas and oppose the "historical dominance of Christianity" in Australia. They complained that Ms Allen used "Christmas" at least 10 times in three newsletters over a week and had subjected them to "direct and indirect discrimination" by treating those who embrace Christianity more favourably.

But stunned community and church leaders, teachers, parents and family groups insisted that Ms Allen need not have apologised. Australian Family Association state president Alistair Barros said: "This is just staggering. It is political correctness gone crazy. Christmas is something which is part of our heritage." Premier Peter Beattie said school principals should be free to discuss Christmas at will. "Christmas is important as a celebration and Christians should be able to celebrate the festivities as Christmas," he said. Local state MP Paul Hoolihan threw his support behind Ms Allen, labelling the case political correctness "gone lunatic". "She has nothing to apologise for," said Mr Hoolihan, Labor member for Keppel. Brisbane Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby agreed it was a case of political correctness gone mad and there was no need for the principal to apologise. "Christmas is part of our tradition and the whole country accepts the fact that we have the Christmas season," he said. "It should not offend anyone if we call it that and I can't understand why a person would be offended." Queensland Teachers' Union president Steve Ryan also backed Ms Allen, saying the Jowsey family had not been discriminated against. The school's Parents and Citizens Association chairman Yme Dwarshuis said the principal's Christmas comments were made "in good faith" and she need not have apologised.

The controversy erupted on November 30, when the Jowseys sent a letter to Ms Allen complaining about her use of the word "Christmas" in several newsletters sent to parents. The family took offence at phrases such as "Christmas concert" and "Christmas disco", and the principal's greeting: "I would like to take this opportunity to wish all families a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and safe Christmas holiday period." The Jowseys demanded Ms Allen respond to their complaint within 14 days.

In a letter to Mr Jowsey, Ms Allen replied: "I firstly must apologise for offending you and your family. "You are right in that there are many references to Christmas and the Christmas season in the recent newsletters. "On reflection, I should have referred to the holiday season rather than the Christmas season."

Mr Jowsey defended his actions, saying religious celebrations had no place in state schools. "I'm not being a Scrooge," he said. "The celebration of religious events has no place in state schools. Forcing the observance of such on young children is a dinosaur. "We've had enough and you don't have a right to push it down everybody's throats."

Ms Allen confirmed she sent the apology to the Jowseys, but would not comment further.


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