Buckman Arts Elementary School in Portland, Oregon has banned Halloween costumes. Here is the first of three related announcements in our principal’s newsletter…
For many reasons, the celebration of Halloween at school can lead to student exclusion. There are social, financial and cultural differences among our families that we must respect. The spirit of equity has lead most PPS (Portland Public Schools) schools, including most elementary schools, to deemphasize the celebration of Halloween at school.
Apparently it was discussed with the staff and members of the equity team (I’ve never heard of this team – who are its members? how were they chosen? what is their function?) as well as many parents and local principals, and these select few concluded that it’s better to encourage more inclusive celebrations. Hmm. See, last year when Halloween got canceled we were told it was because it conflicted with Grandparents/Special Friends Day. Rather than lead my family into its first act of civil disobedience I yielded to the administration as to avoid discord with guests on campus.
This year some friends and I attempted to bring back Halloween costumes. We petitioned for friendly, low-maintenance costumes without masks or weapons. No offense, but the current incarnation of Halloween is primarily celebrated as a secular holiday. It’s more about candy than anything else. But we weren’t petitioning for candy. We weren’t even petitioning for parties. We only want the children at our arts school to be able to express themselves with costumes if they choose to do so. Had the administration said costumes were distracting, the teachers hated it, it was too much work, I probably wouldn’t be making a federal case out of this. But the stream of utter nonsense they’ve laid before us is impossible to ignore. If Halloween is celebrated there are up to six children (out of nearly five hundred) who’s families will not allow them to attend school that day. We’re told these families don’t recognize this as a secular holiday nor does the school district. So let’s run with that, shall we? Halloween: a sacred holiday.
If certain students wore religious head-coverings to school they wouldn’t be sent home. If other students wore black smudges on their foreheads a certain Wednesday of the year they wouldn’t be sent home either. The school system is claiming that this is a non-secular, non-inclusive holiday. Subsequently, Halloween goes the way of Christmas, with Valentine’s Day close behind (oy, the stress of writing all those obnoxiously tiny Valentine’s Day cards – I hate it, but I wouldn’t do away with it when so many people enjoy the ritual).
So now a large group of us must make a choice: stand by our beliefs, letting our children wear costumes to school and risk being sent home or skip school all together and head to the pumpkin patch thus lowering our school’s very important attendance record? To further complicate the matter, a local news station wants to hear our story. Talk or quietly let it go? All this over America’s most creative holiday as it pertains to, of all places, an art school. This country’s obsession with the politically correct is really getting out of hand.