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School bars students from celebrating New Year with Santa hats

Students from Tel Aviv high school say were threatened with suspension for wearing Santa hats to school. Some students call new instruction 'racist', aimed against Russian students for whom wearing hats on Dec. 31 is tradition.

High school students from a Tel Aviv high school said they were not allowed to wear Santa hats in school on Tuesday and were told that if they insisted on wearing the holiday headpiece, they would be suspended. The students of the Shevach high school wished to mark the last day of 2013, but were barred from doing so. According to the Education Ministry, the school is strict in ensuring the students wear the school uniform in class, and that they were allowed to wear the hats between classes.

One of the students, an 11th grader, said: "I've been attending this school since the ninth grade and every year on December 31 we go to school wearing Santa hats to mark the New Year." She argued that the appointment of a new school principal caused the change in regulations and that in previous years it was not a problem.

According to her, several of the students who arrived at school wearing Santa hats on Monday and were punished and one of them was suspended. The school principal denied the allegations and insisted that none of the students were expelled. "Later in the day the teachers told us that according to the principal's instructions, whoever arrives at school wearing the hat will be suspended for a week," the 11th grader said, adding, "but we opened a Facebook group and decided that we will go to school today wearing hats in spite of everything, and that's what we did. When we got here we were asked to take them off but we refused. We stayed with them all day."

A ninth grader added: "It's tradition, so I came with a hat today. The principal and teachers asked us to take the hats off and some of us were threatened with suspension. I'd expect the principal would sympathize, or at least allow us to keep the tradition – it doesn't do anyone any harm."

The Education Ministry said in response: "The Shevach high school is strict when it comes to uniforms. The students were therefore asked not to wear hats and caps all year long. In between classes and during breaks, however, they can wear hats. In any case, no student was suspended from school for wearing a hat and there is not intention of doing so."

The ministry said the school intends to work out a way the students could celebrate the New Year without violating school regulations.

Shahar Chai