Speaking on condition of anonymity, the family told LancasterOnline in an interview published Wednesday that they did not complain about the Centerville Elementary School play or ask for its cancellation. Instead, they said they requested that their fifth-grade child be excused from the production. They said the school granted that request, but that their child was harassed by classmates after the play was canceled in November.
Fox News, which painted the incident as part of a larger "war on Christmas" narrative in a column that blared "SCROOGE!", and Breitbart both ran stories over the weekend about the cancellation. Both Fox News' and Breitbart's articles cited parents who claimed to a local news station that the cancellation was the result of two unnamed parents' complaints about a single line in the play: "God bless us, every one."
The Hempsfield School District said in a statement that it has received at least 200 emails and phone calls about the decision to cancel the play in light of that national attention. According to the statement, the play was "absolutely not" canceled because of complaints about the "God bless us" line and "had nothing to do with a religious concern."
"As we have already shared, the decision was not influenced by parents," the statement read. "It became clear that the teachers had concerns about committing roughly 20 hours of instructional time to something that is not part of the fifth grade curriculum."
The family that spoke with LancasterOnline said they pulled their child out of school and temporarily left the area after reading comments on the Breitbart story that speculated about obtaining and publishing their address.
"There’s no way we’re going to take a chance after the pizza incident," they said, referring to the incident where a man armed with an AR-15 entered a Washington, D.C. pizzeria and fired one or more shots in an alleged attempt to "self-investigate" a bogus online conspiracy theory about Democratic political operatives running a child sex ring out of the building.
LancasterOnline reported that the family hopes to be able to keep their child in the school.
"We've seen some really beautiful things from the people in this community," the mother said.