After-school Teacher at Austin Elementary School Tells Students There Is No Santa Claus

Warning: If you believe in Santa, he doesn't want you to read this story.

Last week, an after-school teacher at an Austin elementary school sparked a controversy that has garnered national attention when she told her students that the character known for leaving gifts under a Christmas tree is not real.

Susan Gammage, the mother of a 5-year-old girl, Aven, recalls a sense of disbelief when she found out what the after-school teacher at Pease Elementary School told her daughter and other students.

"I was very upset," Gammage said. "My child wasn't able to discover this thing for herself."

So Gammage took to Facebook, posting not only her disappointment with the teacher's action but also asking for advice on damage control and musing about deceiving her daughter about Santa. The story went viral after the Houston Press wrote Tuesday about the post, which Gammage has since removed.

In a statement, Principal Donna Martinez said, "Our after-school childcare provider is relatively new to the education field and we will use this as an opportunity to help her learn how to address such conversations differently in the future." Martinez did not name the childcare provider, but she has been identified in other news accounts as Sonia Fuller. She is listed on the school's website as an enrichment program teacher for kindergarten.

Students were discussing Santa's existence and one asked Fuller, who responded that parents, not Santa, put the gifts under the Christmas tree, Gammage said.

It's a delicate subject: American culture goes so far to uphold the belief in Santa Claus that even NORAD has a website devoted to showing where on Earth the hefty, red-suited man and his sleigh are on Christmas Eve.

Coming to the conclusion about Santa on their own is important for children as they develop the capacity to trust others and have faith, said Cindy Dell Clark, an anthropologist at Rutgers University-Camden who has studied children's belief in Santa Claus for about 30 years.

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