Boy banned from school's festive party for having no belief in God

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A NINE-YEAR-OLD boy was banned from his school Christmas party because he does not believe in God.

Douglas Stewart was asked to stay at home while his classmates were treated to jelly and ice-cream, followed by a visit from Santa and presents.

Douglas's mother, Dawn Riddell, was informed that he was unwelcome at the celebration because she had withdrawn him from religious education classes at Cluny Primary School, in Buckie, Banffshire, earlier in the school term.

Ms Riddell, 38, said the headteacher, Ian Davidson,had told her that as the youngster had no interest in religion, he could not celebrate the birth of Christ.

She said yesterday: "It doesn't make any sense to me.

"I've helped out at the Christmas party before and it's got absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. It's all about the kids getting excited about Santa and enjoying themselves.

"Douglas was heartbroken that he couldn't go. It was cruel. There was no reason for him to be excluded."

Ms Riddell explained that her family has no religious beliefs and she decided to withdraw her children from religious and moral education classes when they began to study Bible stories earlier this year.

She wrote to the school asking for the boys to be exempt from the lessons, but was contacted by Mr Davidson and warned that the children could miss out on fun activities.

On the day of the end-of-term party, Ms Riddell was again contacted by the headteacher to say that Douglas could not attend.

She said: "Douglas had come home to get changed for the party. No-one had said anything to him, so as far as he knew he was going.

"He was really upset when I told him he couldn't go back to school. He just lay on the rug and cried. It was such a shame, but there was nothing I could do."

With her other son Callum, 11, due to attend another class party, Ms Riddell contacted Moray Council's education department to find out about its policy on school festive parties.

She said: "I spoke to someone at the education department who told me that Christmas parties are non-religious.

"He said they're a chance for the pupils and staff to mark the end of a year of hard work, and that he would talk to the school."

After the council's intervention, the school relented and Mr Davidson called Ms Riddell to apologise for the "misunderstanding." Callum was allowed to attend his class party a few days later and was given a gift that had been set aside for his brother.

Douglas said he had been left confused by his exclusion.

He said: "People put up Christmas trees at Christmas. They're not religious, so why would a party be religious?"

His mother added: "If it had been something like a nativity play, then I could understand. My children don't take part in anything like that, or go to church services.

"But Christmas parties are totally different. They're not all about religion or Jesus."

Maureen Lane, of the Professional Teachers' Association, said: "This sounds pretty awful. Schools should try and be as inclusive as possible."

A spokesman for Moray Council said the problem had been settled. He said: "The matter has now been resolved between the school and the mother, to their satisfaction. Mr Davidson called the family to apologise."

MISTLETOE MEDDLERS

A LOCAL council has banned staff from kissing under the mistletoe, it emerged yesterday.

Hyndburn Council bosses in Lancashire sent a memo telling staff not to be "misled by mistletoe" over the festive season and warning against "inappropriate party behaviour"

including suggestive language, unwanted jokes and bodily contact.

The memo, also said "Secret Santa" gifts should be carefully chosen so as not to cause offence and risqu items should be avoided.

The council's Tory leader, Peter Britcliffe, said: "If I had been consulted about this I would just have said respect others and apply common sense."

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