Sunday, October 28, 2012

Banned! Controversy!

Did I get your attention?

It certainly got my attention when I saw it on the news.


Does Halloween Belong in School? One District Says No

"There will be no costumes, no candy bags, no parties," District 69 Superintendent Quintin Shepherd told the Skokie Patch. 

But parents aren't pleased -- and not just because they'll be dealing with disappointed kids. Shepherd made the decision in early October without allowing parents weigh in, saying that asking the community for input would have been a waste of time.

"We knew what their response would be," he said. "We know they would feel strongly [about banning Halloween in the school district]. So, the reason we didn't go forward with the community hearings is because we knew they would be upset."

Instead, he sent out a letter saying that the decision had been made.

"District 69 has made the decision not to celebrate Halloween this year. This decision was not made lightly and many factors (including economic, social and religious) were considered. Many students cannot afford costumes and there is an economic disparity. We also have students that are unable to participate for religious or cultural reasons. In the past, these students have had to sit in another room and participate in an alternative activity. Every year the number of students that cannot participate grows. Our staff and administration feel very strongly that we never want students to feel uncomfortable while in school and this celebration makes many uncomfortable." (You can read the entire letter here.)

Shepherd said that he'd been mulling over a ban for the last three years. Some families felt uncomfortable about their kids celebrating Halloween at school because of religious and cultural issues, he explained; others felt that the parties were a financial burden.

Teachers and administrators "noticed more students were unable to participate in Halloween activities and they asked me if there was something we could do to try to address it," he added.

"This is a cultural sensitivity thing for us, also, sort of religious cultural," he told the Niles Patch. "There are some that don't allow for the celebration of Halloween as part of the background."

But angry parents have pointed out that there are plenty of ways to have an all-inclusive celebration without offending anybody. One parent launched a petition on Change.org calling on Shepherd to reconsider.

"While respecting different cultures is very important, many of our children look forward to the Costume Parade and parties," Shaun Saville wrote. "It is unfair to the majority of families who do celebrate Halloween to cancel all school festivities with no discussion or input from anyone other than those who don't celebrate it."

"I feel the decision to cancel all Halloween celebrations was an extreme solution for a small problem," Skokie resident Lynda Meyer commented. "If some children cannot afford a costume then the Halloween celebration at school may be the only way they celebrate. I would be willing to donate all of my children's costumes from previous years. Also I would be willing to donate money to invest in some red capes that could be used as costumes and perhaps also used at Super Hawk assemblies."

"Why not make it a celebration in which all can participate?" asked Saville. "There are other communities as diverse as Skokie and they find a way to respect ALL cultures."

Other districts in Skokie will still be holding their Halloween parties, but the seven-member board of District 69 backed ban after Shepherd raised concerns about his schools' test scores. Shepherd insists that the scores, and the fact that attendance seems to drop on Halloween, made the ban worthwhile.

"No, I do not think we are being too poltically correct," he said. "I think we are being responsive at the numbers we're looking at." 


What are your thoughts?

Here are mine:
*Yes, there are families who cannot afford the expensive elaborate costumes bought in retail stores, but it wasn't that long ago that kids MADE their own costumes with the help of their parents and stuff found around the house. I've been both a hippie and a gypsy using clothing belonging to people in my house. Today using what's in my and my husbands closets I could be a Superhero (thanks to my husbands tshirt collection),   a 50's housewife thanks to a round skirt and a string of white beads, a bride thanks to my wedding dress (although I wouldn't wear it to school), a lumberjack thanks to a winter toque and my husbands plaid shirts, a witch thanks to a black dress and black construction paper to make a hat (although mom still has the hat I used in high school, so that's much easier), a sleepwalker thanks to jammies slippers and a housecoat, and a music fan thanks to a band tshirt. It doesn't have to be elaborate!
You can also MAKE your own costume: use aluminum foil to make your self into a robot, a cardboard box to make a TV or computer, or a bag of trash using a garbage bag.

*As for the students left out due to cultural or religious convictions, I do understand. The last school I worked at all my students were Muslim, so we didn't celebrate a single holiday all year, at least not any Christian ones. However, in public schools, parents should expect their children to be surrounded by and learn about culture, not just the Christian one.

*Also, Halloween parties need not be a whole day affair, they certainly weren't in the schools I attended in the 80's. We changed into our costumes at lunch at home, and the very last hour of the day was our party, which was basically a costume parade and treats. Students who do not celebrate can still take part in looking at the costumes and eating the treats, or they could be dismissed an hour early depending on the parents preferences. Going to a separate room for the party puts a stigma on a student when their is only one excluded, but if there are many, they could definitely have their own "Celebration" which could be overseen by a gym, music, art or resource teacher. Perhaps they could could even spend the time preparing a special presentation for Remembrance/Veterans day?

*I have heard of a few schools that have forbidden scary costumes and requested that all students wear HAPPY costumes or even dress as characters from books. I believe a fall festival of that sort would be a better alternative for many students currently left out. Although I know for some people even dressing up is not allowed, no matter what the reason.

*There really is no way to please everyone, and I don't believe its fair to expect the Christian cultural majority to give up our holidays to appease the smaller growing non-Christian minority. Yes, we should and do respect their cultures, but they need to do the same. Their families can help the schools come up with ways to be more inclusive, maybe by helping to teach the classes/schools about a part of their beliefs which the students would find interesting.


1 comment:

  1. Last year the school in the community I was student teaching in cancelled their "Halloween Parade" that was done every year by the K-6 students. Students would dress up for the day (most would have an in class party of some kind) and in the last period of the day all the students would parade next door to the retirement home to show off their costumes to the elderly people who were living there. Apparently this tradition was decades old and last year was the first year it hadn't been done.
    There was SO much outrage in the community and what actually ended up happening was that the majority of parents pulled their kids out of the school for the ENTIRE day so they could spend the whole day at the retirement home showing off their costumes and participating in craft activities that the parents set up!

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