You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Elementary School Nixes 'Jingle Bells' Over 'Controversial' Slave Imagery in Song

Newsweek logo Newsweek 12/27/2021 Meghan Roos
A school in New York removed "Jingle Bells" from its curriculum due to concerns about its "potential to be controversial or offensive." Above, people in a horse-drawn sleigh take a ride along a shoreline trail on January 31, 2017, in Sand Harbor, Nevada. © George Rose/Getty Images A school in New York removed "Jingle Bells" from its curriculum due to concerns about its "potential to be controversial or offensive." Above, people in a horse-drawn sleigh take a ride along a shoreline trail on January 31, 2017, in Sand Harbor, Nevada.

An elementary school in New York decided to remove "Jingle Bells" from its curriculum because of concerns about the song's potential to be "controversial or offensive."

The Rochester Beacon was first to report about the decision made by officials at Council Rock Primary School, a kindergarten through second-grade school that is part of Brighton Central Schools in Rochester, New York.

The school's concern about "Jingle Bells" was partially linked to a 2017 article written by Kyna Hamill, the director of Boston University's College of Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum, according to the Beacon. Hamill's article explored how the song originated, which included its existence as "a product of the minstrel stage in Boston" during the mid-1800s.

Concern also stemmed from possible interpretations of the song's lyrics that could include slave imagery, according to Allison Rioux, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Brighton Central Schools.

Rioux told the Beacon that some people "suggest that the use of collars on slaves with bells to send an alert that they were running away is connected to the origin of the song 'Jingle Bells.'" Rioux added that the school was "not taking a stance" about the lyric's meanings, but "we do feel strongly that this line of thinking is not in agreement with our district beliefs to value all cultures and experiences of our students."

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

A diversity and equity page on the district's website includes "Jingle Bells" on a list of songs that "are no longer in our repertoire" at Council Rock Primary School specifically. The webpage says "Jingle Bells" and eight other songs listed as examples have been "replaced with more contemporary, and relevant content."

Hamill told the Beacon the slave imagery Rioux described in connection with the sleigh bells described in "Jingle Bells" had "no connection to the song that I discovered" during her research. She told the Beacon that Council Rock Primary School was the first school she was aware of that had elected to stop teaching "Jingle Bells" and suggested school officials identify a "well-referenced source for this claim."

"My article tried to tell the story of the first performance of the song," Hamill told the Beacon. "I do not connect this to the popular Christmas tradition of singing the song now."

She added that she was "actually quite shocked" that the song had been eliminated from the school's curriculum. "I, in no way, recommended that it stopped being sung by children," she said.

Newsweek reached out to Brighton Central Schools for comment but did not hear back before publication.

Related Articles

Start your unlimited Newsweek trial

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Newsweek

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon