After the whole "Baby It's Cold Outside" fiasco, it's clear that the holiday season is becoming a more sensitive time of year than ever before. Though it seems for one family, the issue with their daughter's school had a happy ending that involved an extra $12,000 in their pocket.
It all began when the parents, Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué who both religiously identify as Atheists, were informed by their daughter's school that she would no longer be able to attend Bowen Island Montessori School unless they signed off on an agreement form that confirmed their "understanding and acceptance" of the school's current cultural program.
The agreement form came after Mangel, who was on the board at the school sent out an email to other board members saying that the celebration of Christmas was inappropriate for preschoolers.
He also noted in his email that other religious or political holidays such as Hannukah or Remembrance Day were also not appropriate either. The couple even had an issue with Easter and Valentine's Day, which they claimed had become "too tied up in materialism and consumerism" according to CBC.
Mangel had signed off the letter, "I certainly hope that there will be no discussion of Santa Claus at BIMS. I am absolutely against anyone blatantly lying to my daughter."
The months following resulted in the situation snowballing as both Mangel and Yasué continued to send out "colourfully and testy" emails to board members. The issue wasn't exclusively online either. The board's meetings with staff regarding religious and cultural celebrations within the school began to get tense.
In June 2015, the school ended up asking the couple to sign the acceptance form that was meant to encourage multiculturalism within the school. When the parents refused to sign it, the school notified both Mangel and Yasué that their daughter would no longer be allowed to attend.
Shortly after, the couple took the school to court where the judge found that the school did not reserve the right to bar Mangel and Yasué's child from attending even with their rejection to sign the letter. As a result, the school would have to pay their daughter $2,000 an each of the parents $5,000 as "compensation for discrimination."
The ruling was controversial, considering Mangel's actions before the lawsuit when he found out that the school was organizing elf decorations as part of holiday activities for the students. Mangel sent an email to board members objecting to the idea and instead suggesting "atheist Christmas ornaments" in which one had a depiction of the World Trade Center with a caption reading "Atheists don't fly airplanes into buildings."
The president of the school board noted that the $12,000 payout is a "meaningful sum" and the school will have to examine how to pay the couple and their daughter back. While the couple is now free to re-enroll their daughter at the school, it's pretty safe to say they probably won't be.