Maplewood school nixes Halloween in the name of diversity
Because of concerns about diversity, the Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood has decided to not hold any Halloween celebrations this year — and other Garden State schools may be re-thinking their plans for Halloween.
According to Frank Belluscio, the deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, any decision about whether to observe Halloween, whether it’s a parade or an in-school event, is at the discretion of the local school districts and local administrators take many factors into consideration.
“There are some religious groups that prohibit their members from participating in a holiday such as Halloween, and the district has to consider those children and make reasonable accommodations if in fact they are going to proceed and have any type of celebration," he said.
If there is a Halloween party, Belluscio points out, decisions have to be made about what kind of costumes to allow.
“Many school districts do not the types of costumes that may promote certain poor behavior. Many of the superhero costumes may in fact do that,” Belluscio said. “They might promote certain types of behavior, such as students imitating the martial arts. You know. in many cases it might really encourage rough-housing as we used to call it.”
Also, Halloween treats aren’t what they used to be.
“We do have in our cafeterias, some very strict nutritional guidelines, particularly when it comes to something like processed sugar," he said.
Belluscio adds other type costumes that call for some type of a pretend weapon to be carried – like a police officer or soldier – will usually not be allowed.
“You don’t want to have any type of costume that will be disruptive,” he said. “It’s almost the same as most school district’s dress policies. Any type of attire that is considered disruptive to the educational environment is not allowed.”
Kristin O’Connor, a parent in Maplewood, says she got a letter from her son’s elementary school saying plans for a Halloween celebration had been scrapped because 20 percent of the students don’t participate for religious or cultural reasons.
According to VillageGreenNJ.com, the letter sent home by Principal Mark Quiles and two co-presidents of the PTA reads in part: "Last year, 120 students did not participate in the in-school Halloween celebrations and many other families kept their children home on that day."
The letter said Seth Boyden is "such a diverse community, with many cultures represented, and that we truly value each one."
However, O’Connor notes other schools in the district are still having Halloween festivities. VillageGreenNJ.com reports Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Ramos supported the school's prerogative to cancel Halloween activities, even though his predecessor reversed a similar decision last year.
“We’re concerned and disappointed. In the interest of fairness, there should be one policy for the whole district if diversity is really an issue," O’Connor said. “It’s okay to ban Halloween but not Valentine’s Day? That doesn’t make sense.”
O’Connor said having a Halloween celebration should be voluntary for any students that want to participate.
“I wouldn’t stand for them forcing someone to participate in it that went against their beliefs, but this is insane," she said. "Soon there may not be any holidays, by the time everything is said and done it’ll be nothing but school, homework, recess if you’re lucky and maybe you’re not, and then come home.”