Renaming Easter eggs to 'spring spheres'

Filed conveniently under "odd news," UPI has picked up a story that has been across blogs, Twitter, and provided convenient fodder for the outraged.

The story began last weekend when posted a story about "Jessica," 16, from an unnamed local private high school, who said she wanted to do a community service project for a third-grade Seattle Public School class.

The story came from the girl's interview with KIRO radio. Jessica said the teacher of the unnamed public school approved Easter egg involvement if the girl called the eggs "spring spheres."

Rather than question the decision, Jessica opted to "roll with it." But the third graders had other ideas.

"When I took them out of the bag, the teacher said, 'Oh look, spring spheres' and all the kids were like 'Wow, Easter eggs.' So they knew," Jessica said.

The Seattle elementary school isn't the only government organization using spring over Easter. The city's parks department has removed Easter from all of its advertised egg hunts.

The ending makes the story believable, right? Unfortunately, the story (and the follow-up UPI report) doesn't attempt to track down the girl or speak with public school officials. The Seattle School District received so many questions that they put out a notice about their policy.

We have a "Religion and Religious Accommodation" policy, approved by the School Board in 1983, stating that "no religious belief or non-belief should be promoted by the School District or its employees, and none should be disparaged."

I couldn't find anything from the Seattle Times on the story, but Vanessa Ho writes on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website with some skepticism.

Interesting story on government neutralizing of religious holidays. But is it true?

Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said Wednesday that the district does have a policy on religious holidays, but that it has not confirmed that the "spring sphere" incident actually happened. And the reporting so far has been a little vague.

"It's gone viral all over the place, but we haven't heard if or when it happened," Wippel said.

It's good to see a reporter do some follow-up questions instead of repeating a vague interview from a radio station. The following background is especially helpful.

True or not, Spheregate follows a few other well-known non-promotions of holidays. The city of Seattle purposely leaves out the word "Easter" from its annual community-center "spring egg hunts."

And the Port of Seattle was pummeled over Christmas trees a few years ago, after a threatened lawsuit in 2006. They first removed the trees, then brought back, then said they weren't Christmas trees, but trees that promote "peace and harmony."

The war on [pick your religious holiday] provides viral material, but occasionally we should consider whether the story is too convenient. Perhaps that radio host could provide a few more details to give reporters more details to verify the facts.

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