Move over Christmas and make room for Halloween in the bin of banned holidays.
Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey, is the latest school to give Halloween the heave-ho, banning costumes and other Halloween related festivities on campus because not all of the school’s students and families like to recognize the haunted holiday, reports the Daily Caller.
The school has traditionally celebrated Halloween with a student parade, allowing the children to show off their costumes and enjoy the spooky fun of an Autumn tradition, but according to school administrators and some PTA members, Halloween is no longer an appropriate event to celebrate given the diversity of their student body and those at Seth Boyden who don’t wish to participate.
While the school tried to cancel Halloween last year, parental push back saved the 2014 Halloween activities at Seth Boyden Elementary. But for 2015, school officials never planned to observe Halloween, so reportedly didn’t include any Halloween events on the calendar.
But in a letter to Seth Boyden families from principal Mark Ouiles and some PTA parents, the school representatives explained the reasoning behind canceling Halloween, citing the school’s “diverse community,” its “many cultures,” and the “many” students that “feel left out” at Halloween time.
“One of the strengths of Seth Boyden is that we are such a diverse community, with many cultures represented, and that we truly value each one. In the past, in-school celebrations of Halloween have made many of our students feel left out … (and as) a result, after careful consultation and deliberation, we have decided not to hold in-school Halloween activities.”
Around 20 percent of Seth Boyden’s students boycotted Halloween activities in 2014, claims the letter, by either not participating or just staying home.
Among those that are pleased with the school’s cancelling and going Halloween-free is Tricia James, reports NJ.
Ms. James is a Muslim that doesn’t believe Halloween should be celebrated. At the same time, she also doesn’t appreciate her child being “excluded from whatever is going on.”
“I don’t have a problem with them cancelling (Halloween), because now my child is not excluded from whatever is going on,” said James. “I think, given the number of students who sit out, (this is a good decision). Why lose a day of instruction?”
Wendy Suppa also doesn’t believe in celebrating Halloween, but as a Jehovah’s Witness she doesn’t believe in celebrating any holiday. While Suppa did keep her first-grader home on Halloween last year, the cancelling Halloween is more or less moot from Suppa’s point of view.
“Whether the school did anything or not, we have our own stand,” said Suppa.
For the other 80 percent at the school that do enjoy celebrating Halloween, however, banning the school Halloween activities was unnecessary and out of line.
“I think it’s silly,” said pro-Halloween parent, Rachel Massoni. “It seems a little extreme to me.”
Cindy Carothers also expressed disappointment in the school’s decision to cancel Halloween and her young daughter not being able to wear her costume to school.
“It’s fun and it’s cute,” said Carothers. “I don’t really get it… if some people don’t want to participate, they could just not participate.”
Meanwhile, at nearby St. Philomena’s Catholic school, which also has a diverse student body that embraces different faiths, their Halloween “trunk-or-treat,” parade and costumes will be present for Halloween as usual.
Gwen Trezza, who is an administrative assistant at St. Philomena’s, thinks the schools celebratory Halloween activities are a welcome and fun diversion from the every day school program.
“We are multicultural,” said Trezza. “Some students participate (in our Halloween activities), and some choose not to.”
Back at Seth Boyden, however, disregarding any disappointments in the school cancelling Halloween, the Principal and anti-Halloween PTA parents focused on justifying the decision, PTA Co-President Amelia Riekenberg writing in a blog that diversity wasn’t what cancelled Halloween at the school, but rather unity.
“… diversity did not lead to the decision not to have a Halloween parade in school. Unity led to this decision – everyone counts, or nobody counts.”
School officials also deflected criticisms from the pro-Halloween contingent, saying they had no obligation to celebrate Halloween, only to educate.
“Ultimately, schools are charged with educating children. That is our primary mission,” said Suzanne Turner, spokeswoman for the South Orange-Maplewood School District. “The 80 (percent) of students who participate in Halloween have other opportunities to do so outside of school… the 20 (percent) of students who do not participate in Halloween miss a day of their education and have no other opportunity to make it up.”
That said, it looks like Halloween at Seth Boyden Elementary will be more invisible than a ghost. What do you think about schools cancelling Halloween activities?
[Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]