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.
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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.
Some have said the new instruction is racist in nature, as the custom of wearing Santa hats to school on December 31 is exercised by students of Russian families. The student said one of the teachers told her and her friends that the school has turned into a "Russian ghetto."
"It's really offensive," the student said. "I was born in Israel and my mother was born in Russia. This isn't a political opinion, but a hat that symbolizes the beginning of the New Year. If once a year we go to school wearing a hat no harm will be done. We're good students, and up until this year it wasn't 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.
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