Wausau School Board holds off on holiday music changes - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Wausau School Board holds off on holiday music changes

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The Wausau School District has voted to hold off on making changes to rules governing religious music at holiday concerts.

At a packed board meeting Thursday at Wausau East High School, the board decided to leave holiday concerts up to music teachers at individual schools.

The board plans to address the issue at a later date.

"Lets get through this holiday season, then form a much larger committee to study this that will involve many, many more groups in the community," said school board member Pat McKee.

Hundreds of people attended the special meeting called after the Wausau School District proposed guidelines that would limit the number of religious holiday songs a high school choir could perform in December.

Under the proposal, concerts would have had to include no religious songs or have a different theme.

Superintendent Kathleen Williams had told Newsline 9 the issues came down to the law. She said that meant not endorsing one religion.

The director of the Wausau West High School choir said he was told he'd have to dramatically change his concert program because of the proposed changes. So instead, he disbanded the choir temporarily.

That choir is now back together.

At the special board meeting Thursday, dozens of people spoke, many with the same message—that the school district should have been more transparent, and that it's not fair to put limitations on religious music.

"There is an important role for religious based music," said Rib Mountain resident Jim Vaneyck.

But a few others who spoke say taking a look at the amount of religious music in schools is not a bad thing.

"We're an increasingly diverse community so we need to be constantly reviewing the means so all of our students feel like they are part of the programs in our community," said Dan Danson, a Rabi in Wausau.

The meeting wrapped up just after 11:00 p.m. Thursday.

Superintendent Kathleen Williams admitted things could have been handled better.

"Very much regret the timing of all this, the inability to be able to share, trying to gather information, it just as the perfect storm that didn't end well and for that I am truly sorry to the community," said Williams.

Board members say there's still a lot of work to do.

"There has been significant damage that won't heal quickly," said McKee.

But everyone agreed this meeting was a step in the right direction.

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