It's the season when children around the world prepare for Santa's arrival. But in Montville, New Jersey, a teacher decided it was her job to tell a class of 6-year-olds the man in red isn't real.
The substitute teacher, who also told the children at the Cedar Hill Elementary School that the easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy don't exist, is no longer working for the district.
Parents said their children had to be consoled after the incident, which was sparked when one pupil asserted Santa Claus was real. The child's statement is thought to have prompted an outburst from the teacher.
Myra Sansone-Aboyoun, a mother of one child in the class, said she had to comfort her 6-year-old daughter after she told her what had happened at school that day.
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"She proceeded to debunk all of it," Rene Rovtar, Superintendent of Schools in Montville, told NJ.com about the incident that outraged parents last week and put her district in the national spotlight.
In a letter to parents, who flooded online forums to share their children's duress, Cedar Hill School Principal Michael J. Raj wrote that he had spoken with the unidentified teacher "regarding her poor judgment in making this proclamation". "As a father of four myself, I am truly aware of the sensitive nature of this announcement," Raj said in the letter, which was shared with the Washington Post. The principal had written to parents so they would be "aware of the situation" and able to "take appropriate steps to maintain the childhood innocence of the holiday season" at home.
In a statement, Rovtar added: "The childhood wonder associated with all holidays and traditions is something I personally hold near and dear in my own heart." Rovtar told the Post that after the "Santa Matter", the substitute no longer works for the district. Citing it as a "personnel matter", Rovtar declined to clarify if the teacher resigned or was fired.
This yuletide predicament is not isolated to New Jersey. During the Cape Coral Festival of Lights in Florida, a man with a large sign walked around shouting, "There's no Santa Claus!"
Actors Dax Shephard and Kristen Bell told Us Weekly that they decided to inform their daughters, ages 3 and 5, that Santa is "pretend". And on Fox News this week, Sean Hannity made the tension a topic of debate on two separate segments.