AN INFANTS school has attracted a storm of controversy after it was suspected of axing a Father Christmas visit because of pressure from Muslim families.
The headteacher of the Grand-Clos school in Montargis (Loiret), told Le Parisien: We’re going through hell; incredible harm is being done to the school and the children”.
She said they have been receiving threatening phone calls and she plans to take legal action. However they did not come from people associated with the school, she said.
The controversy was sparked by an email spread on the internet, in which a person calling herself an “upset Montargis resident” denounced a decision by the headteacher – who has been in the job just a few weeks – to cancel the traditional Santa visit after she received complaints from “a few Muslim mothers”.
The cancellation is described by the local education authority as being due to budget constraints, however one parent told Le Parisien: “I went to see the headteacher to understand the cancellation and she said she didn’t want to get her fingers rapped by certain Muslim families.”
The headteacher also sent out a note to families saying Christmas would be different this year “so as to respect everyone’s beliefs”. However she later told local paper La République du Centre this was a reference to the fact that “some children believe in Father Christmas and others don’t” and “if I had meant religion, I would have said that”.
An official at the Montargis mairie told Le Parisien the head told them she had phoned her predecessor to discuss how to “deal with the families who, each year, threaten to boycott the day of Father Christmas’s visit”.
Montargis mayor Jean-Pierre Door has written the education authority and the headteacher, saying Father Christmas is “pagan” anyway, and not specifically Christian. He said the visit should go ahead « even if all the councillors have to dress up as Father Christmasses”.