(NEWS10) — Some schools go all out when it comes to Halloween including costumes, arts and crafts, and lots of decorations. However, others are now moving away from the typical holiday celebrations aiming to promote inclusivity.
One example of this new idea being put into practice is at the Evanston/Skoki School District 65 in the Chicago suburb of Evanston Ill. Back in September the interim superintendent, Heidi Wennstrom and Phil Eckhart issued a statement that said the district would be “moving away” from Halloween celebrations.
The reasoning as explained in the statement provided by Yahoo Lifestyle, says that Halloween festivities can alienate and exclude students and staffers who might not celebrate for a variety of personal or religious reasons. District 65 officials have claimed that the celebration of Halloween can have an “unintended negative impact” on those who might not be able to afford a costume.
“We want to be inclusive of all families including those families who don’t celebrate Halloween or find purchasing a costume a hardship,” officials at Hillcrest Elementary School in Waukesha, Wis., told parents in 2017, the year it decided to host “Hat Day” instead. (The school is avoiding the issue this year by closing for a staff development day, according to its calendar.)
Other schools have echoed similar concerns and responses to the idea of holding Halloween celebrations.
On a different note, officials at North Country Elementary in Antelope, California told CBS Sacramento that their decision to cancel Halloween celebrations was due to low attendance in favor of a “harvest festival.” Administrators said in a statement that a trend of parents were keeping their children home because they do not celebrate the holiday.
In Vermont’s Burlington School District, concerns were raised regarding the cultural insensitivity of some costumes. Miriam Ehtesham-Cating, English Learning director of programs, told local news outlet WCAX that, “many people are made uncomfortable by the notion that you change your identity, you turn into someone else and those somebody else’ could represent cultural appropriations.”
Other schools have looked at safety issues and emphasized a focus on “educational time” that has prompted many parents to become frustrated with the lack of Halloween spirit. Online, those opposed to these ideas have criticized them as a symptom of “PC” culture.
Some parents have expressed dealing with such issues associated with the holiday in a different way that could be seen as more constructive and direct.
Evan Porter, an Atlanta-based dad blogger said,
“I’d rather see schools (and parents) think more creatively about how Halloween costume parades and parties could be more accessible to lower-income students, students prone to over-stimulation and religious students. I’d rather have direct and honest conversations about what kinds of costumes are inappropriate and why,” he adds. “It seems to me that banning Halloween from school just sweeps these complex and difficult issues under the rug.”
Other parents feel that the ban on Halloween is “ridiculous,” said Beverly DePew, a mom and real estate broker in Arkansas.
One mom from Millbrae, California said she is not against the idea of celebrating Halloween as long as it does not infiltrate planned learning activities. She told Yahoo Lifestyle that she will be keeping her 4-year-old son home on October 31 so he will not have to participate in any planned Halloween celebration.
She said in a statement,
“We haven’t gone as far as considering complaining about school activities yet, as long as we can exclude him by staying home,” she adds. “However, if any of these holiday traditions make their way into his educational lessons, we are prepared to bring up the issue. We don’t oppose social activities because he is not missing out on anything if he doesn’t participate. But if it has a part in academics, it it’s definitely cause for concern.”
As the debate over Halloween grows, some schools have chosen to avoid the issue all together by cancelling classes for the day on October 31 and opting for conferences or teacher in-service days. Others are changing up their traditional Halloween activities with less controversial events that aim to celebrate the fall season or creating a stricter dress code when it comes to costumes.
Another option is to generalize the holiday by allowing students to wear hats or come dressed as their favorite book character without directly mentioning Halloween.
A number of schools that are part of Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) New Jersey, a group of 14 public charter schools in Newark and Camden that covers grades K-12, are instead holding “Picture Me Tomorrow,” where students are encouraged to draw inspiration from a dream career such as a firefighter or other job.
KIPP Newark executive director, Joanna Belcher, told Yahoo Lifestyle that other KIPP schools have hosted harvest-themed events or after school “trunk-or-treats” that for the most part have received little pushback from parents.
Some schools have taken it to extremes in the past that were not well received. In 2015, schools in Milford, Conn. made national headlines when officials decided to scrap Halloween parades during school hours in favor of optional, PTA-sponsored events held after school in an effort to avoid alienating those who don’t celebrate. After parent outrage and accusations of being “un-American,” then-superintendent of schools Elizabeth Feser reversed that decision and announced that the original parades would carry on. According to the 2019-20 Milford Public Schools calendar, the Halloween parades continue to be held.