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School teaches Santa skills for the '90s

class

November 23, 1995
Web posted at: 7:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Fred Wayne

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- It's the time of year when Santa Claus begins showing up at shopping malls around the country. Some Santas are now getting special training on how to do the job in the '90s. (25K AIFF sound or 25K WAV sound)

At Santa School, the philosophy is "good Santas are made, not born." Despite the jolly man's ancient traditions, he must be up to date, too.

The school provides the basics that all Santas need to know, like how to get dressed and how to sound like old Saint Nick.

There is also a list of things that Santa should not do. "Santa should never smoke or drink or flirt," Jennifer Zink, of Western Staff Services tells her red-suited students. (56K AIFF sound or 56K WAV sound)

The school reminds the Santas that these are the '90s, and that means being especially careful about touching the children.

"We tell the Santas to make sure their hands are showing," Zink said.

Santas also need to be sensitive about changes in the American family.

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"We don't talk about moms or dads anymore, we call them 'folks,' because some kids are from broken homes," she said.

Another issue that can cause problems are toys that some parents might consider violent or inappropriate. Santa gets around that by staying neutral and by not making promises.

Western Staff Services, which runs the school, says it weeds out any would-be Santas who don't measure up.

"We run background checks on our Santas to make sure they are who they say they are so we don't have any bad situations while they on the throne," Zink said.(44K AIFF sound or 44K WAV sound)

With graduation over, it's time to venture out into the real world of shopping malls all over the Bay area.

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Old Saint Nick may be more politically correct now, but Santa is still Santa, and he predicts a great Christmas ahead. "There is peace in Bosnia, and I think this is going to be one of best Chrismases ever," Santa said.

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