7 Reasons Why This School is Banning Halloween

Here’s one for the “What is the world coming to?” files.

7 reasons why a school is banning Halloween (and it's not what you think)

This gem scrolled through my Facebook feed yesterday: A friend’s children’s school has decided to forgo Halloween this year in favour of…I don’t know…Friday, I guess. The decision was attributed to the “staff” and the reasons behind it were given as follows:

The [school] staff have agreed no Halloween dress up based on these grounds.

  1. Due to increase in supervision duties, teachers do not have the time to dress or apply make up for up to 30 students in their classrooms.
  2. Increase in the need to monitor and address appropriate dress and socially acceptable costumes
  3. Costumes are hot and uncomfortable causing irritation and often crying
  4. Too many upset students when costumes become torn, lost or parts forgotten at school
  5. Many costumes are dangerous on the playground and impedes moving comfortably and or are not conducive to the learning environment
  6. Costumes and parading increases apprehension in an increasing number of students who are presently experiencing anxiety issues-which can result in crying, worrying and withdrawn type of behaviours
  7. We also have an increase in number of students who cannot be photographed whom we have an obligation to protect so this can be difficult to monitor.

The friend who posted this was justifiably incensed – There had been no discussion with parents beforehand, which, since the vast majority of these issues could have been easily dealt with by parents, could have prevented this from being an issue in the first place. In her post she commented on each of the reasons given with simple solutions:

Solution to #1: Ask parents to make sure costume is easy and requires no make up

Solution #2: Parents know better then to send an inappropriate costume to school

Solution to #3: Make sure costume is indoor friendly

Solution #4: Tell parents send at your own risk, the school will not be held responsible for that. Also kids should know better respect other peoples property.

Solution to #5: Why would a parent let their child wear something dangerous, that’s just stupid.

Solution to #6: Create a quiet environment with appropriate activities for these students, whilst the other students go about on the parade. Not a hard solution. I understand anxiety is a tough one but these children cannot be sheltered for society their entire lives and our kids shouldn’t have to suffer because of it. No one should. It’s a win win, kid get their parade and the quiet kids get their own comfortable environment.

Solution to #7: Not that difficult actually. NO PICTURES PLEASE; we are all grown up we know how to follow rules.

As these things inevitably do, the discussion quickly devolved into the usual “they” can’t force “us” to give up “our” cultural traditions/why-come-to-our-country-if-you-don’t-want-to-follow-our-traditions (I’m pretty sure that’s what the Native Americans said*)/this-is-just-political-correctness gone-mad rhetoric…

"Nobody take offense or anything, but I'm just going to blame religion for a decision that didn't actually involve religion. But seriously, don't be offended, y'all, cause I said I didn't mean it *that* way."

Ah yes…”Nobody take offense or anything, but I’m just going to blame religion for a decision that didn’t actually involve religion. But seriously, don’t be offended, y’all, cause I said I didn’t mean it *that* way.”

 

"So I'm just going to go ahead and play Devil's Advocate and say that I agree with the school's decision for reasons that the school didn't actually cite for making that decision."

“So I’m just going to go ahead and play Devil’s Advocate and say that I agree with the school’s decision for reasons that the school didn’t actually cite for making that decision.”

 

"If *you people* don't like *our* cherished traditions, why don't you just a) Not send your kids to the schools which they have a fundamental, documented right to attend; or b) Go back to where you came from," which collectively garnered 12 likes in about 20 minutes.  "If *you people* don't like *our* cherished traditions, why don't you just a) Not send your kids to the schools which they have a fundamental, documented right to attend; or b) Go back to where you came from," which collectively garnered 12 likes in about 20 minutes.

The old, “If *you people* don’t like *our* cherished traditions, why don’t you just a) Not send your kids to the schools which they have a fundamental, documented right to attend; or b) Go back to where you came from,” which collectively garnered 12 likes in about 20 minutes.

 

"I hate to say it but...oh, who am I kidding? I say it whenever I get a chance. Sometimes I just yell it out randomly at people on the street! We're so concerned about offending people with out institutionalized racism and Judeochristiancentric statutory holidays that we are letting our cherished traditions like celebrating the Gaelic feis of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest and the turn of the seasons to wintertide, with the pagan traditions of mumming and guising and rest assured WE WON'T GIVE UP OUR CULTURAL APPROPRIATION WITHOUT A FIGHT."

And finally – asserting our right to our time-honoured traditions: “I hate to say it but…oh, who am I kidding? I say it whenever I get a chance. Sometimes I just yell it out randomly at people on the street! We’re so concerned about offending people with our institutionalized racism and Judeochristiancentric statutory holidays that we are letting our cherished traditions like celebrating the Gaelic feis of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest and the turn of the seasons to wintertide, with the pagan traditions of mumming and guising and rest assured WE WON’T GIVE UP OUR CULTURAL APPROPRIATION WITHOUT A FIGHT.”

 

…notwithstanding the fact that not one of the school’s reasons cited religious/cultural accommodation as a factor in the decision, so let’s just leave that train in the station or better yet send it to the scrapyard, mmmkay?

Blocking out that portion of the discussion as completely irrelevant, the rest of the discussion was very balanced. Suggestions of “laziness” on the part of teachers were quickly shut down by other posters pointing out the challenges teachers face with increasing class sizes and curriculum requirements.

Logic 7

Reasons 2

Other posters made some very astute observations about the effects of banning costumes and the benefits of school-sanctioned Halloween fun.

Logic 2    Perspective

 

The majority of the conversation centered around the issue of parents/caregivers not being given a chance to try to problem-solve these issues, which most agree could have been done easily.

Logic 9Reasons 1Logic 8Logic 10

One poster asked if parents hadn’t followed instructions in the past, and I don’t know the answer to that.

And many offered creative solutions to the problem:

Logic 6

My take on it was:

Heck, half the time Molly wears princess dresses to school. I’m normally at the head of the inclusivity parade but this is ridiculous. None of the reasons mentioned in the original post had anything to with religion, for one, so that’s not even under discussion.

If they don’t want to organize a halloween parade, that’s one thing. Forbidding “dress-up?” How do you even define that? “Oh, little Jimmy, that sure looks like a scarecrow costume to me. Go to the office!” “But Mrs. So-and-so, I just felt like wearing my overalls today!” The standard rules for “appropriate dress” that (I assume) everyone is familiar with would apply just like any other day (a subject in and of itself that I have covered in detail on my blog, so I won’t bore you with it here!). Teaches don’t have the time to apply facepaint? So…uh…how about “Parents, please be aware that teachers will not be able to apply facepaint and plan accordingly.”

Summary: I would send my kids in costume anyway and raise holy hell if the school tried to make something of it. It’s possible I’m *that* parent.

and I suggested a sample letter that could have been sent out to parents.

Dear Parents,

Students are invited to come to school in costume or dressed in orange and black on October 31.

A few things to consider:
*Costumes must comply with our standards of appropriate dress.
*To avoid frightening our younger students, please avoid facepaint or masks.
*For younger students, it’s a good idea to give costumes a “test run” at home to make sure that your child can get in and out of them by themselves as staff may not be available to help them.
*You may wish to send a change of clothes for your child.

Happy Halloween!

The Principal

I also sought an expert opinion on the topic, posing the question to Ben:

“Hey Magoo, there’s a school in town that has decided not to let kids wear costumes on Halloween.”

“What? Why? It’s not my school – we’re having a parade!”

“Well, they said that the teachers don’t have time to help all the kids in their classes put on make up and costumes.”

“Oh, okay. Wait, I don’t really get that. Why wouldn’t they just put on their costumes at home?”

“They were also worried that it might be hard to make sure the costumes were all appropriate for school and for learning.”

“Why would a costume not be appropriate? What does that even mean? Oh, wait – There was that time when I wore my knight costume – you know, when I was still at Molly’s school – and I had my sword and shield but we weren’t allowed to have weapons at school so I put them in my cubby. So I guess if kids brought something they weren’t supposed to they could put it in their locker. I don’t know, mommy. I still don’t really get it. I think they should be allowed to wear costumes.”

Logic. If a 7 year-old can handle it…

~ karyn

 

*There’s a reason “First Nations Peoples” are called FIRST Nations. Just sayin’.

13 thoughts on “7 Reasons Why This School is Banning Halloween

  1. I would like to clarify, I was implying to keep your child home during the festivities if you are offended by our traditions and yes they are Canadian customs and traditions that I speak of. We do live in Canada last time I checked. And we had no issues like this growing up. Our country has always been multicultural but we all adapted. I am NOT racist And I certainly DO NOT discriminate. The majority of people in this country have no problem with different people from various backgrounds practicing their customs and traditions so why is it that we are being forced to alter ours in our homeland. This is why I question the concern of the schools and the Canadian public on these issues that involve historical traditions. (And by historical I simply mean years past) it’s all just very frustrating. I for one want my children to grow up and pass along all of the fun things that we all looked forward to as children. I understand everyone may not feel the same way but this is how I feel and felt the need to clarify since my comment was being used in this article. I would also like to clarify that I understand the teachers had unrelated reasoning for their decision. But, in the grand scheme of things I’m certain that they are following suit and that the idea has come from another source. Possibly a school that has cancelled all traditional celebrations for religious reasons or otherwise. Also, the families of the students should certainly have a voice concerning such matters. I apologize in advance of I have offended anyone with my comments.

    • If you want to argue about historical traditions and our “homeland” then I would like to bring up the issue of Indigenous People because if Canada is anyone’s “homeland” it’s there’s.

      -11 year old Ben (from the blog post).

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    I agree with many of your points and I appreciate your clarification. I removed the names and pictures from the posts I used because I felt that they represented commonly held views that are often voiced in these conversations. You aren’t alone in your feelings and I apologize if you felt singled out. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment.

    ~ karyn

  3. Well, I’m not Canadian or anything 😉 but I can definitely see the points you are making. I have seen a lot of similar situations down here in the lower 48.
    Where I live there are quite a few preschools that are free to celebrate whatever they choose, but since most (almost all) of them are housed in church basements, they usually opt for “Harvest” parties (sans costumes, etc.) as something to celebrate in lieu of more traditional Halloween parties. No “scary” stuff, seasonal Fall decorations and food. The kids don’t seem to mind the lack of costumes. It’s a party–what’s not to like?

    I grew up (many years ago and in another state) and I recall Halloween parties every year at school. Most were fun, I guess, but I remember 3rd grade being particularly traumatic for me. Cheap costume ripped–nothing outrageous, but a big deal when you’re 8. So I have a funny story to pass on to my kids but they won’t have the same experiences.
    NONE of the elementary schools around here have Halloween parties at school. I can see how people would assume it’s a religiously-infuenced decision (especially where I live: outside a small borough with a population of 5,500+ that houses 3 elementary schools and 14 churches inside the borough alone–all of which service a greater population of several surrounding townships as well) where the majority are quite comfortable in their religious righteousness regarding a great many things both political and civic.

    But the one thing I think bears mentioning–that I did not see addressed in your post–is that what it all boils down to (unless I am grossly misinformed or just ignorant to some Canadian tradition) is that Halloween has nothing to do with school. Is it a fun tradition that many kids have enjoyed over the years? Yes. And you are all free to celebrate in whatever manner you choose? Absolutely, but at home or in your own neighborhood on Halloween night.

    I can imagine that the whole thing could be a hassle for the teachers, but that most of it COULD be mitigated by good communication and conscientious parents, but in the end, in regards to school, and your kids’ educations, it really doesn’t matter. It will suck for the first few years and then it will just be what it is. I have no idea when that kind of thing stopped around here–if it was even EVER part of the picture (we have only lived here for 9 years) but this is where my kids have begun their public education and it’s just what they know. And they’re no worse off for not being able to wear a costume to school, parade around in it and eat even more candy and junk food for one day every school year.

    • You raise an excellent point! “Traditionally” Halloween is a really big deal up here (and a crapshoot – Does my costume need to be able to fit over a full snowsuit or is it going to be balmy? Are we trick-or-treating in pouring rain or a blizzard?) and up until a few years ago almost every school would have a day of costumes, candy, and parading around the block. But many schools have started moving to an “orange and black day” in the last few years, often in recognition of the fact that they can’t assume that every family can afford costumes. Teacher friends of mine have pointed out that they often wind up spending their own money to buy costume pieces to make sure that everyone has a chance to dress up. I think those are quite reasonable considerations…If the school had cited them, I would have written a very different post!

      • I totally get that, as well. I think the biggest problem is the lack of communication and the lack of opportunity for the parents to find a suitable solution that everyone could live with. And as I said, it would suck for the kids, I get that, but eventually they wouldn’t even know the difference. Or at the very least, something less specific like a Harvest party or the black-and-orange theme (cool idea!) you mentioned (although a compromise to many) is a good way to keep things simple and inclusive.

  4. I asked my niece (7 and 4 year old) about this and tnis is her comment

    I dont think Halloween should be the schools responsibility at all. This decision doesnt even surprise me. Until last year I had no idea how much work went into ONE day on the teachers part. I dont agree with everything in the article but I dont agree with how our school handled this. I was not permitted to participate in dressing up for Halloween as a child due to my parents belief system which I respect now as an adult. However I support my child’s freedom of expression. My children still get to go out at night and dress up which is why I am not that worked up about it. The school is an institution that has to incorporate EVERYONE, including my son with a peanut allergy, so I personally understand when rules are made for the masses to protect the minorities. One of the arguments made by the Superintendent was that one child ended up with an anxiety attack because she saw a witch. Last year Oliver got frightened by a number of costumes. We used it as an opportunity to dicuss real versus pretend. Across the street from the school is a very graphic halloween display on private property. My issue is parents putting the onus on schools to shelter their kids from our very visual world, which I do not agree with.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Rob! You raise some excellent points about the school’s versus the caregiver’s responsibilities. When the danger is known and the consequences are immediate and severe, it is crucial that accommodations are made to protect a child like your son with the peanut allergy. As you point out, the fact that sometimes at Halloween things are scary can present a problem for some students – that could be seen as a problem to be solved, or it could be a teachable moment, as you saw it.

  5. Opps can’t edit (munich not municj)

    It is clearly a generational thing as I grew up going to church every week and ALWAYS went trick or treating but by the time I was married suddenly Halloween was considered “un christian”. BTW Christ does have nothing to do with Christmas, I spent 10 years in a church that didn’t celebrate Christmas

  6. What this article should really say, is how bullying is alive and well at this school, and how there are parents who support the new tradition, but they are loud mouths, and they realize there are REAL problems in this world, like soldiers being killed, poverty, etc..
    What is even sadder at North Ward School, is how the tradition of the Food For Thought program is not running, even though it has been a weekly tradition that is paid for and supplies free, nutritious snacks for the children 2 days a week…why is it ending? Because none of these “concerned parents” was willing to waste any of their time preparing and passing the food out to the 400 plus kids in the school.
    Sadder yet is the EQAO math results, that are sadly low, and have not garnered ONE call to the school.
    Maybe this little town needs to wake up and look around the real world and see what the true big picture is!

    • Hi Sally – Thank you so much for reading. It is sad to hear about all those other issues at the school. The argument that people should care about a particular issue because there are worse things happening in the world is always a bit troublesome for me because that will always be true – if you try hard enough, you can always find an example of something worse. Should that paralyze your efforts to change the thing that is potentially within your grasp? By teaching our children to respectfully disagree, raise awareness around an issue, demand answers, and engage in peaceful protest, we empower them and prepare them to address these bigger issues in turn.

      As for the concerned parents – perhaps this issue will be a catalyst for parents realizing there is a great need for increased volunteerism at North Ward? Of course it could also be that the reason there are no volunteers is the same reason that the children are in need of free nutritious snacks – maybe the parents can’t volunteer because they are are struggling to work to put food on the table at home. I don’t know the answer to that. But perhaps this issue and your comment will bring attention to the fact that the school is struggling for lack of help, and if people like you are vocal about the other programs and traditions that are being affected, some more change could be generated.

  7. Pingback: So, a school is banning Halloween? Get over it - Today's Parent

  8. Seems everyone is in a tizzy over this…..I’ve noticed schools now focus so much on all the festivities for every single special day on the school calendar year …does anyone figure like me how they learn the basics of reading, math, science and any social studies in between? I think parents in particular should support the teachers in favour for the children as a whole for better education and well rounded future citizens…and change is good..when you try something new you might end up with better results …but you don’t know until you try…and that is also an important lesson for kids to learn….so I hope the parents can try it. And do we really need to see gory costumes and props? Goodness, just go on the news with some of these killers all over the world and it may just turn your stomach….things to ponder.

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