Every year, thousands of children across the country dress up as everything from ghosts to Goldilocks as they celebrate one of the most anticipated kid-friendly holidays of the year: Halloween. But many schools are now putting an end to the fun and banning any form of celebration of the holiday, including sugary treats, parties and costumes. And more than a few folks are upset.
At Skokie School District 69 in Illinois, Halloween has just been officially banned. “There will be no costumes, no candy bags and no parties,” said District 69 Superintendent Quintin Shepherd. He said officials considered banning Halloween for the past three years and that a drop in school attendance during this day plays a major factor in their decision.
But District 69 is certainly not the first to have schools that banned Halloween. Many schools all over the country have already set this in motion, including one in Portland, OR last year. The principal there explained his reasoning: “This celebration can lead to student exclusion; there are social, financial and cultural differences among our families we must respect.” Parents from the school fired back and sought to overturn the ban, but the school district remained firm on its stance.
School officials cite many reasons for choosing to ban Halloween on campus, including drop in attendance, religious or cultural reasons, families’ inability to afford a costume, distraction from education during class, “too scary” costumes and overtones of witchcraft. But upset parents say they don’t buy it; they believe it’s just another feeble attempt to once again be politically correct.
“I would hate to think of my kids missing out on such a fun holiday and not being able to wear his cat costume to school just because we don’t want to offend someone,” one blogger wrote. “It seems our country has become obsessed with being politically correct, and in my opinion, it has gotten out of hand.”
Another blogger wrote, “What happened to the good ol’ days when we celebrated all the holidays at school with cookies, concerts, costumes and parades? It’s a shame we’re seeing these things disappear little by little. Pretty soon, we won’t be able to discuss or celebrate anything.”
In the past, children who have not wanted to participate in holiday activities have been given an alternative, but some parents believe it is unfair and makes the child feel excluded on that particular day. These children often just stay home instead, which leads to a worrisome drop in school attendance, according to school officials. And with significant budget cuts these days, they say this could ultimately hurt schools financially.
Though I grew up in a very conservative home, I looked forward to Halloween every year, when my mother would sew me a costume from scratch and I’d traipse up and down the neighborhood with my friends in search of the biggest candy bar in town. Today, my children’s schools do not allow costumes, though kindergarteners do get to partake in a costume parade. Instead, we celebrate a fall party, which encompasses both Halloween and Thanksgiving and includes fall-related fun, educational activities and a few treats. Many local schools have adapted this alternative as well. But everyone knows the real fun begins when the last bell rings and the kids can run home to put on their costumes and trick or treat.
Interestingly, while many consider Halloween an “evil” holiday, its origins actually come from Celtic roots. Going back centuries ago, folks in Ireland and Scotland celebrated the end of summer with the Samhain festival on October 31st. This marked the beginning of winter as they harvested their crops and moved their animals into the barns and pens. The word Halloween is derived from “All Hallow’s Eve.” After the Catholic Church was developed in Europe, November 1 became All Hallow’s Eve, a time when the saints of the church were remembered. While many today still celebrate Halloween with ghosts and goblins, still others choose to focus on pumpkins, corn mazes and crockpot chili.
I personally look forward to this time of year, as it is the one time both adults and kids can dress up and be whatever they want. I love the grins on my kids’ faces as they dump out their bags and sort out their candy from most to least favorite when they return from trick or treating. And most of all, I love stealing the Reese’s Pieces after they’ve gone to bed. I think Halloween is overall an innocent, fun holiday, but I understand the complications of celebrating it at school, especially as kids get older and costumes get more, er, interesting. I could also see how the excess sugar highs could drive some teachers to insanity, too. As it is, they get the brunt of it the next morning when the kids are “hung over” after a long night of fun.
Parents, what do you think about schools’ decisions to ban Halloween? Do you think we’ve become too politically correct these days in our attempts to not offend anyone? And how do you celebrate Halloween with your kids? We want to hear from you!