From the Department of Petty Controversies: Schools Cancel Halloween

Of all the conflicts to roil our educational system, this one is pretty absurd

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In the latest example of small-mindedness plaguing our educational system, schools around the country are attempting to ban costumes and candy on what is surely one of most kids’ favorite days of the year. The excuses range from vague concerns about “safety” to specific worries about food allergies to—get this—fears of breaching the wall of separation between church and state.

(MORE: Grownups in Costumes: Have Adults Ruined Halloween?)

But whatever the motivation, the end result is the same as what Charlie Brown used to get every time he went trick-or-treating: a big old rock in the candy bag. What sort of lesson are we teaching our kids when we ban even a tiny, sugar-coated break in their daily grind (or, even worse, substitute a generic, Wicker Man-style “Fall Festival” for Halloween)? Mostly that we are a society that is so scared of its own shadow that we can’t even enjoy ourselves anymore. We live in fear of what might be called the killjoy’s veto, where any complaint is enough to destroy even the least objectionable fun.

Consider Sporting Hill Elementary School in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, the school sent parents a note explaining that wearing Halloween costumes was was canceled because, well, you know, “safety is a top priority.” A spokesperson further explained, “We recognize that the education about, and celebration of, seasonal festivals is an important aspect of the elementary setting…[but] we must do so in a manner that is safe and appropriate for all children.” You’d think it would be easy enough to craft basic guidelines on what’s safe – only fake blood, no trailing ghost or ghoul fronds that might get tripped on– but such a simple task is apparently beyond the powers that be in Sporting Hill.

Inglewood Elementary, outside of Philadelphia, tried to go Sporting Hill two better by banning Halloween activities due to a mix of dietary and constitutional concerns. One school board member told Philly.com’s Dom Giordano that the traditional student Halloween parade was canceled out of worries “that some kids with peanut allergies might eat or come into contact with something peanut-based during the parade and related events.”

But it turns out that the school’s principal had loftier philosophical reasons for scotching the fun. “Some holidays, like Halloween,” he wrote to parents, “are viewed…as having religious overtones. The district must always be mindful of the sensitivity of all the members of the community with regard to holidays and celebrations of a religious, cultural or secular nature. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs.” Unless there’s a particularly active group of druids in the district, or the parade ends with a ritual sacrifice, it seems unlikely that there’s much to worry about.

(MOREWhat Your Halloween Spending—Particularly, Your Choice of Costume—Says About You)

Such wilfully obtuse reasoning may well qualify the principal for a seat on the Supreme Court, but it won him no points with parents or school district administrators. Indeed, after the former complained, the latter hung him out to dry. They explained that the principal’s letter and banning of Halloween activities was “not an accurate representation of the school district’s administrative regulation.” In fact, they stressed that the district’s schools were hosting more Halloween activities than you could shake a Pixie Stix at.

Kids in Bexley, Ohio won a similar reprieve, but only after 160 parents signed an online petition and another 30 or so packed a parent-teacher meeting. A couple of years back, parents in Springfield, New Jersey pulled off the same feat even as Portland, Oregon schools put the kibosh on Halloween. And so it goes, with Halloween bans joining pedagogical prohibitions on tag, dodge ball, and just about everything else you can imagine.

Given the heated arguments even over something as ultimately inconsequential as celebrating Halloween, it’s no wonder that enrollments at public charter schools are going through the roof. Like private schools, charters allow parents and students to choose specific schools rather than be assigned to them based on accidents of geography or residence. By matching schools and students based on shared interests and goals, a lot of the serious conflicts that have traditionally roiled schools – over the role of curricula, sports, sex education, and so much more – simply disappear like a, well, bag of Halloween candy in a young kid’s room. Of course, disagreements don’t completely disappear in schools of choice (whether public or private). But they are less frequent and less intense precisely because everyone involved can always go elsewhere.

Schools where parents, students, teachers, and school boards are mostly on the same page rather than at each other’s throats? That’s an idea that’s almost as unimaginable as banning Halloween used to be.

MORE:  Critics Balk at Creepy Halloween Costumes

34 comments
ketchasketch
ketchasketch

Our family isn't asking our schools to ban halloween. But because we are not Pagan, we don't celebrate it. Our 6 year old boys can go to school knowing that they are supporting the things that God loves. Would we take Jesus to a Halloween party? We wouldn't but we are sure there would be some who would have no problem with this... and we don't judge them... it is just that we wouldn't. So if we wouldn't do it with him with us, why would we do it... when He is definitely with us? Our kids also don't celebrate the "joys" of Chinese New Year... which is a huge celebration and probably brings happiness to many. They are not missing out of any "joy" by missing this one day a year.

TomServo
TomServo

I'm moving to Brazil...this country is a disgrace of leftist sentiments.

discerning1
discerning1

This wave of political correctness has destroyed American culture. It is sad that so few children will ever experience the joy of Halloween depicted in Peanuts cartoons or recalled by those of us over 40. Why can't people let other people have a little fun? If urban legends about poisoned candy, that somehow Halloween promotes religion (Drudism? That has been dead for centuries), fears of peanut allergies, or concern that a single wingnut parent will sue a school district (for what!) destroy our traditions - then what is next? Will be no longer able to celebrate the 4th of July because fireworks are loud?

IsaacNelson
IsaacNelson

It's funny that while the principal who tried to ban Halloween was scared pantsless of lawsuits from atheist parents or groups based on Halloween's having Christian  religious tradition, some Christian schools ban Halloween because of its deeper roots in pagan and druidic practices.

Both viewpoints seem disconnected from the reality of what Halloween has become today. For kids,  it's a day when you dress up as whatever you want, whether it be scary, funny, cool or pretty. Whatever your fancy pleases. And if you do dress up, people give you candy wherever go. When you're a kid, that's just awesome! And yet, hovering helicopters want to take away a cultural touchstone that the vast majority of children love. School can be a grind for kids. Give them things to look forward to. Give them reasons to want to go to school. 

majinyojimbo
majinyojimbo

If Halloween is banned from schools, then remember this for Islamic holidays that all celebrate slitting throats.

PapaMincho
PapaMincho

It must be comforting to fume and bloviate about things that are meaningless. Then again, that is the prerogative of the libertarian movement.

If some schools choose to celebrate Halloween and some choose not to, is America really over? Mine chose not to because it was a Christian school.

Also, Gillespie, good job barely tying your meaningless, white-knuckle outrage into a pitch for charter schools. Good to know that you can't be trusted to make an argument on its own merits! This way, I can avoid more and more of your articles.

ColdAir
ColdAir

They'll try to cancel Halloween, but they let men and woman marry each other.  Thank god for the 20th Century.

Spoonkey
Spoonkey

Such a lame country. People need to lighten up and stop worrying about offending all these pansy pc types. Hell with all the cry baby religious groups. Have some fun. If some group of uprights is offended then oh well, their problem.

PhillyCannabis
PhillyCannabis

People have to realize school is a business. They are in business of factory building servants to society and capitalism. 

k.kaprow
k.kaprow

Nick sez, "it’s no wonder that enrollments at public charter schools are going through the roof."

Yeah Nick, it's SOME schools' (you cite three) silly Halloween bans that are responsible for charter schools' massive 4.5 percent share (going right through the roof!) of American students. That's weak reasoning even by libertarian standards.

Yup, when parents decide whether to send their kids to a charter school, the most important criterion is not academic, but rather the school's policy on Halloween!

Weak, Nick. Very weak.



#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

this is the overly PC left's continued pussification of america. way to go libtards, way to go

Bullsgt
Bullsgt

Schools are a place of learning, students should be encouraged to understand and experience all types of social, national and even religious holidays or events. It is up to parents and school systems to put context to what the students learn. What could possibly be wrong with educating an open mind.... Well just ask a racist, xenophobe, or Theophobe!

TracyMar
TracyMar

This article really surprised me. I had no idea that celebrating Halloween at school was still the norm. My kids are in middle school now, and they never celebrated it at elementary school. They would have "Harvest" parties. No costumes allowed, it might offend somebody whose religion didn't celebrate/believe in it, or scare some of the kids.  A few teachers held Valentine's parties with Valentines exchanged. Most now do "friendship" parties. Homemade treats are discouraged, store bought ones encouraged. I remember wearing a  costume to school when I was a kid, sometimes we would do a parade around the block.

k.kaprow
k.kaprow

Wait, which school board is banning children from trick-or-treating after school hours, at night, on their own time?

politiwars
politiwars

Halloween is almost officially dead anyway.  Just let it go.  It isn't coming back - ever.  Once against a tiny minority of people who feel they have the right to be offended about everything won.

PH
PH

So have they also banned Christmas? We can safely assume they haven't.

bookwyrm
bookwyrm

@alexmgt1000 you should read about the actual history of Halloween - not the anti-halloween propaganda. Halloween is a Christian festival - the eve of all Hallows day .. the day of the Hallowed or Blessed dead.. it's roots are in the Catholic Christian festivals that marked the lives of the blessed dead and all the saints (not just the martyred saints). The Protestant Church demonized the festivals and the 'spooky' night of the spirits of the dead grew from anti-Catholic propaganda. Neo-pagans appeared in the 20th century - 100s of years after Halloween wandered around the world. You are the one that is deluded and hateful. You make your own filth 

tkd8283
tkd8283

@PapaMincho I believe your own question can be turned back onto you. If some parents and children choose to celebrate Halloween, is America really over? Because the attempt to ban it in schools is suggesting that that would be the case. 

And the argument is one of margins. If you don't express discontent over small but ridiculous changes at the margin, then eventually those margins add up until we are banning everything. Each one individually is small. Added together, we see substantial differences in what it means to a citizen.

Matttheshark
Matttheshark

@PapaMincho A Christian School would not be a public one so the parents would actually have a choice about which holidays to celebrate and which not to. It wouldn't be a government school where all kids are forced to go to unless their parents can afford to send them somewhere else.

splintersworld
splintersworld

@ColdAir  I assure you, it's not the same people. Generally people who are more open minded are the ones complaining about the bans in this country. It's the concervative types who are typically rigid about all of this stuff including same sex marriage.  They live in the past but are also trying to transform their future into a stale, sterile environment that only suits them and them only. I live next to a wacky conservative lady. She's a total wack job looking to take the fun out of everything.  It's so stupid..  Like living next to a caveman.


ketchasketch
ketchasketch

@Spoonkey the exact same thing that has been said throughout history... "pansy", "cry baby"... this is what causes wars.

CarolynPalacios
CarolynPalacios

@k.kaprow you are among the willingly obtuse if you haven't seen the growing numbers of nitwits in charge of public schools.  Go ahead and send your kids there if you like, but given the standardized test scores of public schools you might also want to teach them how to pump gas and use a deep fryer.

splintersworld
splintersworld

@politiwars  Far from dead. Where are you from?  Where I'm at, Halloween is very much celebrated every year. It's not going away any time soon.  If anything, I see religion taking a plummet as more people grow the wiser about our existence on this planet.

ketchasketch
ketchasketch

@tkd8283 sorry, but your "small but ridiculous" is another's significant and noteworthy. Get over yourself.

splintersworld
splintersworld

@ketchasketch @Spoonkey  No... actually its your type that causes wars. People want to enjoy the fruits of human life, yet you seek to destroy it.  I can't STAND people like you. So rigid.  Like  a rock that can't move. Loosen up that belt over your forehead. 


splintersworld
splintersworld

@ketchasketch @tkd8283  No, you get over yourself.