AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A teacher at an Austin, Texas, elementary school's after-school program sparked controversy when she told students that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
Last week, students in an after-school program at Pease Elementary School were discussing Santa Claus and asked their teacher what she thought, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported.
The teacher, identified as Sonia Fuller by other news reports, told students that parents, not Santa Claus, leave gifts under Christmas trees.
Susan Gammage, the mother of a 5-year-old girl, Aven, who was in the program, said she was in disbelief.
"I was very upset," Gammage said. "My child wasn't able to discover this thing for herself."
Experts say it is important for children to come to a conclusion about Santa for themselves.
"It's taboo to say there's no Santa Claus. It's an age-graded belief system that we expect some children to believe in," said Cindy Dell Clark, an anthropologist at Rutgers University-Camden who has studied children's belief in Santa Claus for about 30 years.
Clark added that she has found children stop believing in Santa Claus between the ages 6 and 14.
Pease Elementary 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."