For many years, October has always been associated with cooler temperatures, brightly colored leaves, and Halloween. In a majority of schools across America, students have always had the opportunity to partake in a variety of Halloween celebrations. However, some school systems, including the Milford Public School System in Milford, Connecticut, have started to argue that these festivities should be removed from public school systems due to the controversy they may cause.
A newsletter was sent home to parents of Milford Public School students claiming that the decision to remove Halloween parades “arose out of numerous incidents of children being excluded from activities due to religion, cultural beliefs, etc.” The note continues to explain that “costumes are not permitted for students or staff” and if teachers wish to have their own parties in their classroom, “food is not an option.” So, no more costumes, and no more food. That sounds like the greatest party ever…or just a typical school day.
Milford isn’t the only school system that has had its doubts about Halloween. In 2013, a school system in Bexley, Ohio also struggled with the decision to keep annual Halloween traditions. Like Milford, the town of Bexley believed “there was a religious element to some of the opposition…but more often, parents complained that poorer families can’t afford elaborate costumes, and that ghoulish outfits gave young children nightmares.” Unlike Milford, Bexley decided to come up with reasonable alternatives, such as “parents offering to donate old costumes to help families who can’t afford new ones, and they suggested themed parties to keep costumes tame.” These substitutes are a great idea, because it allows students to participate in the activities, and it resolves a majority of the problems that some parents had about the Holiday. Children are also learning to help out their community by donating costumes to families, which is another added bonus.
The fact that several school systems are having this issue indicates that our society is becoming less tolerant of certain traditions. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s a great idea that educators are acknowledging different cultures and beliefs. However, I do feel that removing all of the events is slightly unnecessary, and can cause larger problems down the road. If teachers and students are prohibited from wearing costumes because it may offend some students, does this mean that teachers as well as students will no longer be allowed to celebrate their beliefs and wear a Christmas or Hanukah sweater around the holidays because it offends atheist parents? Will this prevent students from making Mother’s Day or Father’s Day cards for their parents because it is unfair to children of single-parent families? By eliminating all festivities, we are allowing people to become more close-minded because we are failing to understand how others live. Instead of banning school events, such as holiday parties, we can use them as a way to discuss a variety of cultures. For example, schools that have Halloween parties can use said parties to educate children on other types of celebrations that occur in Autumn. Students who do not celebrate Halloween can use this time to talk to their classmates about special Fall events that are important to their cultures, such as Dia De Los Muertos and Rosh Hashanah. Students can bring in books or food and teach others about holidays that are important to them, thus exposing students to a wide variety of cultures that they would not have learned about if school systems banned celebrations.
Aside from the cultural benefit, allowing Halloween to be celebrated in schools gives children a chance to enjoy this time of year in an environment that is safe, and supervised. Even if families allow their children to celebrate Halloween, not every child may have the chance to. Children who live near busy streets, or in areas that have a high crime rate may be forced to stay home on Halloween. Some children may have parents who work nigh shifts or are physically disabled and therefore cannot take their children trick-or-treating. If schools continue to hold Halloween celebrations, children can still feel including by participating in some sort of event, even if they cannot do so at night.
To some adults, Halloween festivities in schools may seem controversial, but in reality, it’s a great way to celebrate Autumn events as a whole, and it keeps kids safe. So let’s keep the parades and parties; it’ll teach kids that it’s cool to dress up as a cartoon character every now and then, and it’s even cooler to learn about another person’s culture with all of your little friends.
This article was written by Kim Dilisio, a writer for dusk magazine.