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Valentine's Day ban sets off debate on school celebrations

The Bethel School District in Eugene is changing the way its elementary schools celebrate Valentine's Day. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) - The Bethel School District in Eugene is changing the way its elementary schools celebrate Valentine's Day.

"We can recognize the values Valentine's Day promotes - friendship and kindness - but in ways that include all students," district spokesperson Pat McGillivray said.

McGillivray said not every student enjoys, or is able to participate in, the usual Valentine fanfare, be it because of their family's beliefs or finances.

"They have to decide whether they're going to spend that dollar on those cheap little 3-by-2 Valentine's Day cards on a box of cards," he said, "or maybe on a half-gallon of milk."

So, this year, no heart-filled parties in class.

Teachers aren't encouraging students to bring in Valentines, though they still can if they want to.

Instead, there will be activities like "friendship trees" and "kindness cards," prizes for good behavior.

"Those virtues that everyone appreciates lifelong rather than for a half-hour party in a classroom," McGillivray said.

But some kids look forward to the festivities above all else, like Meadow View second-grader Sophia Peterson.

"It feels like I'm really special and that I'm enjoyable," she said about receiving cards from classmates.

Her mom, Kayla Coleman, recalls those same feelings. "I always remember passing out Valentine's Day cards as a kid. It was some of my fondest memories."

She's now outraged by the district's changes.

"If it brings so much joy to our children, why try to take it away?" she asked. "Why try to mess with it?"

For McGillivray, the answer is simple: "We want to include all kids; not the majority of kids."

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