MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Teachers at Heritage Elementary School in Madison were informed Monday their plans to have an "academic egg hunt" with their kindergarten and second grade students would need to be scrapped.
The school's principal, Lydia Davenport, informed staff no activities related to or centered around any religious holiday would be allowed in the interest, she says, of religious diversity among students.
There is nothing biblical about Easter bunnies or colorful plastic eggs or synthetic iridescent grass clippings -- but the perceived need to modify the student egg hunt has many parents upset; less upset, they say about the need to preserve religious freedom and more about their students' freedom to simply be a kid.
One Heritage parent wrote in an email response:
"I don't get upset about too many things, but this upsets me. What is this world coming to? I am a Christian and proud to announce it. But even non-believers enjoy a good egg hunt. Kids need to enjoy being kids."
"We had in the past," explains principal Lydia Davenport, "a parent to question us about some of the things we do here at school, so we're just trying to make sure we respect and honor everybody's differences."
Teachers had originally planned to participate in a 'quiz bowl' egg hunt where students would chime in to answer with egg buzzers and search for answers to quiz questions in "Easter eggs". It sounds simply like fun and games -- no rugged crosses cloaked in purple silk, no images of hands clasped in prayer; just eggs -- plastic ones. But Heritage School administrators came up with a compromise to allow the student activity to continue.
"We compromised by allowing teachers to use other different kinds of shapes besides eggs in the classroom to put those questions in the students will be answering."
Davenport says Madison City Schools have no policy in place regarding observance of religious holidays. Elementary school teachers in Madison are allowed to choose the two parties they wish their respective classes to participate in each year. The egg hunt and quiz bowl will go on, just without any mention of the word "Easter".
"Kids love the bunny," smiles Davenport, "and we just make sure we don't say 'the Easter bunny' so that we don't infringe on the rights of others because people relate the Easter bunny to religion; a bunny is a bunny and a rabbit is a rabbit," Davenport concluded.
Principal Davenport says one of her kindergarten teachers has students that represent six different religious denominations. It is the need to make sure religiously diverse students do not feel uncomfortable, she says, that prompted the decision to change the semantics on the school egg hunt.