My small town's schools are bullish about leaving no child behind, even if he/she is severely challenged academically. Recently, we advocated for our son, who was reading four years below grade level, and struggling in everything else. But the authorities were adamant, insisting that being held back would be dire, very dire indeed.
But what about children left behind at holiday time? Enter," 'tis the season!' " (to be unconcerned). Back when I was in kindergarten in a school that was 1/3 non-Christian, we learned "Away in a Manger," and there was a (useless) parental outcry. Thirty years later my eldest child returned from preschool singing "Jesus Loves Me." After Thanksgiving, a third grade teacher explained she was decorating with pine trees “for no reason.” Middle school: we requested our child be excused from Christmas movies (to the library, computer lab, even home): no compliance, and there followed a full-day outing to the mall, “a school activity for learning about money.” Right. The high school rooftop is yearly adorned with reindeer and sleigh.
Not everyone desires, or can afford, parochial school. But when we object to religious trappings public school, there's a stock answer: "oh, please come and share your own traditions...children should not feel left out!" Our reply is “no religion (even watered down from manger to Santa) belongs in public school; these celebrations are for religious institutions.”
The fact is, though, that my children are different. There are other “different” children who need accommodation: wheelchairs, special ed, etc.) Now, we “minority” adults do learn to live as such (barring injury or worse), but to expect such of a child, who may be ridiculed, and/or become depressed, especially when it violates law and is unnecessary, is hazardous, is not, I'd even say, in the “spirit of the season.” I could play devil's (pardon the expression) advocate and suggest that maybe such ostracizing actually prepares minority children for life later (but do we allow racial slurs? Of course not!). Some youngsters will be minorities anyway, variously talented or challenged, etc. Children are susceptible to being teased, and don't cope well with feeling like outsiders. Why saddle them with further stress? They're kids! And consider teenager-hood: there are enough problems with fitting in.
This is not an issue of whether my child is learning, so he/she can have a future: it is an issue that shouldn't even be one. History has exposed the terrible dangers of that notorious mixed marriage, religion and government. The concern, then, is not just that lip service is paid to some traditions while the entire environment is festooned for only one), but also the larger message: that religion in any guise belongs in public school. That lesson is false!
Recently, a friend told me how a person had died for humanity's sins. I said, yes, I know many believe this – but not all.” “Oh, she protested, “you don't have to believe it for it to be true , and for everyone.” Now, consider: you may believe the earth is flat, although science (via the brains that the God you're positing gave us) says it's spherical. You can say it's flat, often, and loudly; it doesn't make it so. Opinion (or belief) often differs from fact.
Likewise, you can believe in burning bushes, a seven-day creation, virgin births (there are many of these among religions), physical resurrection to afterlife (ditto), the tooth fairy, etc. A problem arises that I'll call “individuation.” Nearly all religions teach that humanity are all family -- this is a good thing! But individuals do differ (What, you don't discuss politics with the extended family during the holiday meal?). My daughter believes in the tooth fairy, but I won't (even if invited) preach tooth fairy lore, songs, etc. in school. Neither should expression of other beliefs be labeled “school activities."
So, if you really don't want to leave any child behind, then keep public schools secular! Otherwise you're sending a message that's proved unwise, dangerous, even deadly. Why involve schools in such an endeavor? We already teach three “R”'s. But it is not, in the public arena, in any way justifiable, to any of our children, to include religion as a fourth.