Halloween Costume Ban Follow-Up

The controversy this topic stirred-up has taken everyone by surprise including our principal. Like me, he has been subjected to a host of reactions ranging from indifferent to outraged. Online I’ve been I’ve been told I should focus on more important issues, instead of blogging I should volunteer, that my motives have been selfish and misguided. Here is the actual chain of events for your review…

1. Two parents (myself included) wrote letters of complaint, the same two parents who complained last year and vowed to fight the ban on costumes. (I believe, with so many other school issues at hand, our complaints were honestly forgotten as opposed to ignored).

2. The response to our complaints indicated that the case was closed, there would be no room for negotiation or compromise.

3. We started a petition (as we said we would) to see if others felt the same way we felt. They did.

4. I published a post on Bananafish (a blog I write amid spilled drinks, potty emergencies, endless drop-off’s and pick-up’s, soccer, music, and more – I hardly believe there’s a volunteer position that can accommodate these circumstances).

5. Bananafish was then linked to several news sites thus creating a public platform for a series of heated debates.

It’s important to note that I was not the person who contacted the newspaper nor was the famed Sarah Nagy. But guess what, over two hundred petitioners getting no recognition is a story! Generally, those numbers merit at least a nod.

Our nod came two days ago in the latest installment of our school newsletter. Per special addendum, our principal offered some points of clarification (several of which are newly listed and make more sense to me) as to why there will be no costumes at school this year. Buckman students will be expected to dress within the parameters of the PPS dress code on Halloween. Lucky for us, we’re art school. Our principal writes, “Every day we encourage our children to celebrate their uniqueness and individuality.” Kids with dyed hair and feather-weaves, capes and mismatched knee socks, are often seen roaming our halls. A few extra witches and warlocks will hardly make a difference. Some families have said they’ll allow their children to wear whatever they choose on Halloween. Others are talking about avoiding school altogether to celebrate their holiday. According to one PPS source a single day of high absenteeism will have little impact on our funding. No matter what your course of action is, I hope it will be carried out with respect for all.

What remains crystal clear (and for me most frustrating) is that there seems to be a relatively small group of people making decisions on my behalf. Site Council is a group of nine volunteers. Seeking public opinion is not part of its function. I desperately want to participate in the decision-making process (as I’m sure many others do) and though I faithfully read our newsletters, I have no idea where and when these decisions are being made. Many of us can’t attend PTA and/or special events meetings. But we all deserve to have our say. This “fiasco” as one commenter calls it might seem like small potatoes, but if several dozen parents can’t get a word in regarding Halloween costumes in a Portland Public School, how in the world are any of us ever going to change corruption on Wall Street?

We are but a microcosm. And that fact is not up for debate.

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23 responses to “Halloween Costume Ban Follow-Up

  1. It is a new district that has gone with the top down management model; if one dissents you are against everyone else and not a team player. It is being done with in school decisions where teachers are not comfortable making suggestions in the open for fear of reprisals by the principal or the district. If the principal says it is so, then it is with little more said. The “equity,” issue is the latest buzzword and with equity everyone is the same, something PPS has a hard time selling, but still pushes. Site Councils are window dressing that were a good idea years ago, but my experience since is that they have become a sounding board for parents, but the principal, who should only have a partial say , still makes the decisions. He/she just gets to know more about people and what they really have on their mind. It has turned into more of a confessional, so the alter egos and those in charge can find out where the motivation will be when it comes to certain issues. For those on the anti union bent just think where teachers would be without a decent union; fear, fear and more fear is exactly what evolves when you allow principals and upper level administrators dictate every single idea or educational program. This district has lost some great educators because of the last two superintendents and will continue to do so as the top down model continues.
    We all know it is usually the small cracks in the dam that will eventually cause the collapse and flood; that is what this issue explores, a small fight with much more meaning than many are willing to admit……

  2. You think the site council is not tuned into the pulse of the community,
    and maybe the nation?

  3. That NewYorker article was hysterical. Sadly, it’s not really too far from the reality…
    Through all this at least people were talking. Voicing their opinions. This is good. I find most times people will not say anything because they don’t want to offend anyone, are just too lazy to talk about it, they worry about what other’s may say about them, or just flat out do not have an opinion of their own. So anytime people are talking, debating, thinking for themselves, this is good. My biggest pet peeve is people who never voice an opinion or stand up for anything. So, way to get em talking….
    jb

  4. Shan, regardless of the outcome, the outcry and the “outrage” displayed by so many you have done, yet again, what most people would not. You’ve succeeded in getting everyone talking about politics, regardless if the topic is a schoolyard one or a national one, it all starts in our own communities! Again, you’ve proven to be an amazing woman 🙂 and I am honored to be your friend! xoxo

  5. I never thought at story like this would have caught on to Huffington Post and Fox News. It obviously stuck a chord. I had been approached by the media and joked about on my facebook page, but never actually connected with anyone. I did write the New Yorker, the Daily Show and This American Life begging them to cover this topic nationally as I think it’s interesting to other people. I love Shannon’s blog and her insight on parenthood and life in general. This has been a real learning process for all involved. I guess the compromise is that if everything is subtle, eyes are averted at school. I just wish it could’ve been a little more straightforward. Thank you Shannon for your words and bravery. Despite what anyone thinks, we did this for the kids! Many of them have thanked me for my efforts and it makes it all worthwhile!

  6. Sorry–one last footnote I was on “Think Out Loud” because Shannon was working, she would’ve been amazing! I think that was a very important discussion and very local. At that point it was also helpful to ask people to not call the school directly. I totally stand behind everything that happened, but of course did not want trolls bothering Buckman! My kids go there and it’s creepy! I guess that is just the consequence of forcing a public discussion.

  7. Why doesn’t the site council seek public input? If they are devising
    policy in a public school? Who has the duty to seek public input?
    Seems like it is unequal treatment under the law if the PPS dress
    code is waived in some schools for Halloween costume wearing, but
    in others it is not. One wonders if the members of the site council
    are a diverse representation of parents of Buckman? Is the site
    council volunteers composed of teachers, or parents, or a combination?

  8. Site council is generally an equal number of parents and teachers – also, there are usually a couple of community members – as well as the principal. The main purpose of Site Council is to create the School Improvement Plan (SIP) – which mainly has to do with increasing test scores and improving communication. You too can be a part of your school’s site council!
    By the way – the equity team has nothing to do with Halloween celebrations or creating some PC environment – its focus is to increasing the test scores of black and brown kids, whose scores are consistently lower, regardless of community, Socio-economic status and school.
    I know at our school, the decision for kids not to wear costumes was made by the staff and PTA. They are having a Halloween celebration outside of the school day.

    • Teacher lady, thank you for explaining what a Site Council is and how it functions. I’d like to add that Site Council meetings are open to the school community. If anyone would like to get involved, but doesn’t have the time for monthly meetings and email correspondence, one can always sit-in to see what it’s all about. Another great way to get involved with your school is to join the PTA, and of course, volunteer as much as possible.

  9. I have never posted on a blog before, but after reading this, I must let you all in on numerous situations…I work/volunteer directly with the teachers and out of concern for them, Mr Anderson, the two secretaries and the rest of the staff/community, you do not realize what has been happening because of this…I am breaking a trust from one of the teachers at Buckman, and I pray that this particular teacher forgives me. Lawyers, upper PPS management and the police have been involved now since the decision was made…the nation-wide calls into the office (I have been present for a few and there have been dozens upon dozens) have been rude, demoralizing, crazy, obnoxious and some even threatening (this is not including the e-mails)… The police are WELL informed and working with district officials to ensure safety is a high priority. Shannon and Sarah (and others), while I don’t know you personally (I have seen you out on the front steps with petitions), what words/sentiments you have shared in this blog and with other media outlets doesn’t give me the impression you really care about the school in general, only your personal and highly emotional agenda…there are security issues that now have to be dealt with and though you have expressed your opinion, in a quite flagrant manner, it has caused others to possibly be in harms way. It begs the question, do YOU want your words to be viewed in that way with those results? Is this what and how you truly want to be viewed by the community in general? The threats are real and are being dealt with and to see the teacher’s face (scared and extremely worried) when they shared this, alarmed me greatly. There are MANY MANY parents quite upset with the way this has been handled and the harm it is causing – I hear it in meetings, hallway conversations, etc…I strongly suggested that you both reevaluate why you are at Buckman and take a deep look at your words and behaviors…You do have other options, yet unfortunately the damage is done and the rest of the parents and staff have to deal with the wake of all this hype… Respectfully, A parent.

  10. A parent, after ALL THIS, you question my motives. My motives were to save a long-standing tradition I cherished as a child, a tradition I wanted very much to pass onto my own children. I’ve never questioned the motives of those who opposed the original issue (which seems far removed now). I trust we all want what we believe best for our children.

    You incorrectly assumed I don’t realize what the school is going through now. My face was on the news! Not by choice. Do not assume this has not effected me. I truly wish the staff didn’t have to deal with the insane backlash, but nobody could have predicted this would go viral. Not even you, A parent. And while I received an abundance of support I have also received dozens of hostile emails and phone calls from far and wide. Scores of people on both sides have been furious and that fury has been directed at me, or our principal, and various others. Obviously and unfortunately, the actions of others are beyond anybody’s control.

    If indeed you saw me with petition in hand, it was in front of the school for fifteen minutes two weeks ago on a Tuesday morning and again for thirty minutes that rainy afternoon. Other than maintaining this suddenly busy blog, that was the extent of my revolt. As for my options with another school – how dare you? A parent, even if I were safely anonymous as you are, I would never make such biting, personal remarks. Barring a very brief stint in an office after college, I’ve only ever been a working artist – actor, writer, acting teacher, music teacher. There is no other school I would choose for our children. I’m at Buckman for the long haul and once my youngest children are a little older, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me. I’m sure I won’t be seeing you, because I have no idea who you (and the majority of readers) are, but nonetheless I appreciate how upsetting this is for you and I thank you for your comments.

  11. Buckman Parent Extraordinaire

    I’m such a broken record. This is what I have been saying for the last THREE years…

    The principal was placed at the wrong school. It’s probably not his fault, but he was. Unfortunately on top of it, he brought his secretary with him.

  12. Dear B.P.E., generally my shoulders tense at the sight of a necktie and freshly pressed button-down shirt, but I must confess I remain a fan of our principal. What he lacks in creativity he makes up for in District Fluency. That is to say, he understands how to navigate the machine that is PPS and fights hard for our school. He’s the first to admit his lack of experience in the Arts, which is why he relies so heavily on our Arts Team. Good leaders surround themselves with the best of the best and trust their expertise.

    I get what you’re saying. To a lot of alternative parents (and/or community members who place high value on creative expression) it feels like our school is drifting toward vanilla. I encourage you to sit down and talk with him sometime, express how you’re feeling, and see if there’s some way to improve the artistic vitality of our school. I suspect there are a lot of parents out there who’d like to strengthen our community through more creative channels.

  13. A parent: It’s Principal Anderson who has perpetuated this issue based on his own, personal agenda. At any time, all of this could have ended by his simply reversing his decision and thus properly serving the Buckman community. Instead, he’s sought to escalate this, so now little kids will be terrorized by armed police officers. He is respojnsible for perpetuating this endless pissing match, no one else.

    That said, you sound remarkably and supsiciously like Martha72 from the previous post. You state you were present for a number of phone calls—that’s pretty privileged communication–so you’ve outed yourself as more likely a Buckman employee, not a parent. That makes your presence here entirely inappropriate and unethical.

    Shannon has alreaqdy called you out on your equally inappropriate suggestion that she consider a different school. I’ll add, who exactly do you think you are? It is not for you to judge and decree who is or isn’t worthy to attend Buckman or any other school.

    I seriously question the extent of the “death threats” Brian Anderson has received. If this were true, I’m pretty sure the FBI would’ve contacted Shannon and/or Sara–and they certainly would’ve mentioned it. It’s very difficult to buy into a pack of educated, hippie types threatening anyone with anything stronger than “I don’t agree with your decision”. He’s simply using hyperbole to push his agenda and be a stubborn bully.

    Lastly, I love his other justification for the ban–that at Kelly, a very poor (75% free or reduced lunch population) 40% of the students were Russian and thus stayed home on Halloween.

    This argument fails to hold water on several levels: 1) regardless of population, what the hell is it to YOU if I dress up like a princess or a pirate for a day??? 2) If I visited or moved to another country, I’d embrace their traditions and feel all the richer for it. I’d still celebrate my country’s culture, but I’d WANT to learn my adopted country’s traditions, as well.
    3) Even if you buy into not upsetting the plurality of your community, that was Kelly, this is Buckman. Buckman which is educated, middle income and very boho. 85% of the kids are US born caucasians. If there are even ARE any Russian families at Buckman, it can’t possibly number more than 1 or 2.

    As for upsetting fundamentalist Christians, I doubt there are a whole lot of THEM at Buckman, either—and probably just as many Pagan families (maybe more).

    In short Brian Anderson’s choices on this issue don’t show a sensitivity to the Buckman community, it shows he fully ignores their wishes. And based on what I’ve heard—-I’m gonna out you right now as Anderson’s secretary.

  14. The strategy in reacting to the petition seemed to be creating fear in
    the school community – and that probably served to polarize people
    on the issue further. Schools in general are there to socially condition
    children to respect authority. If schools do not do this, then children
    could grow up and not respect authority figures in general. Those who
    have a problem respecting authority can have a hard row to tow –
    and some can even end up in the prisons (and we do in this country have
    one of the highest per capita incarceration rates on the globe). In the
    effort to understand with all the outcry against the ban, I can only speculate
    that the principle and superintendent have this lesson to teach by not revoking the ban.

    • Ummm, spooky–people who have learned to question authority (something that’s guaranteed in the constitution, BTW) are also generally the ones who bring about positive change. Questioning authority founded this and most other free, modern nations. It freed the people of India from foreign rule. It did away with slavery, brought about universal suffrage and enacted civil rights. It struck down segregation. More recently, it freed Egypt and Libya from decades of tyranny.

      Conversely “just following orders” enabled the Nazis to rise to power, allows Kim Jong Il to oppress his people, enforces plural, sexually abusive underage marriages in religious cults and led many a misguided individual to commit suicide becuase their leader told them to.
      I’ll take questioning authority–and even challenging it any day, thank you. The argument of “then they won’t grow up to be good little zimbies” in an arts focused (or any) school is a very, very weak one.

      • Oh P.S. it’s been pointed out that Halloween offends Jehovah’s Witnesses–which might well be true. If it’s being quashed to spare THEIR feelings, then schools must go all the way also ban the observation of birthdays (or even the mention of it) and the reciting of the Pledge (which for other reasons, I have issues with). Also, the giving of gifts to teachers (displays income inequity, is frequently done at Christmas time and in some cultures there isn’t much gift exchaning anyway) except kids’ drawings or somesuch. Doubt we’ll see any of THAT happening any time soon!

        As for the failure to “respect” (or even question) authority thing: I thought about this a LOT—and the more I reflected, the less sense it made. I’ve never, ever heard of a correlation between someone who constructively questions authority and incarceration. Arrests (especially if you’re an OWS potesters and all those newly created charges) maybe—but there are plenty of attorneys who specialize in challening precisely those laws and thier constitutionality.

        I’ve never been arrested (I’m 46) and consider myself to be an ehtical person. Generally people who commit the crimes they’re convicted of and subsequently incarcerated for have done something wrong. Doing something wrong or bad is completely separate from challenging the status quo.

        MY daughter is also one to heavily question authority—she also clearly understands the difference between right and wrong. In short I doubt someone’s pursuit of free expression would ever lead to grand larceny.

  15. Well-said, Zumpie and Spooky. Questioning authority is very important to my family and me. We are grateful to those who stood-up in far more dire circumstances than these. Thanks to them slavery was outlawed, women were given the right to vote, fair trade agreements were enacted, police brutality is not tolerated, etc., etc. The trick is to teach our children to stand-up peacefully and respectfully (a petition, perhaps) and show them that violence in word or deed is not an option.

    In speaking with many active parents from several other communities, the concensus seems to be that this situation was, and continues to be, handled poorly. Instead of working to unite us, our leaders dug-in and accepted this divide with very little regard for the community as a whole. It has been an eye-opening experience I hope we can all learn from.

    • Bonjour,Je suis quelqu’un qui a des allergies qui me genent dans ma vie quotidienne, voila j’ai une allergie à l’humidité et aux acanaers.J’iimerai bien savoir quel traitement Tibetain qui pourra me soulager de ces allergie car j’ai des rhenites trés souvent.Merci à l’avance.

  16. I posted on the original thread a few moments ago,wondering where your follow-up post was. I would like to apologize for my accusatory tone.

    Thank you for adding more information. The timeline of events, from your perspective, is very helpful.

    Lots has changed over the years at Buckman, and to be honest, I just really miss Helen Nolan and Miss Vicki more than ever.

    This issue BLEW UP. And its sad to me that our school received such negative attention over this. I can understand that its an important issue to many but I encourage parents to walk into Mr. Anderson’s office and talk to him face to face if you have a problem with something. Or pick up the phone and call him….

    (and I am absolutely staying anonymous here. My children go to this school and this topic has brought on way too much attention for my taste. Can any parent here really question why another might want to stay anonymous on the internet?)

  17. Guest, thanks for your comment. I totally get why people stay anonymous and don’t blame you or them. What I don’t get is the internet-wide lack of integrity (not in your case) that now plagues us. Nowadays people who are otherwise polite and articulate launch attacks with words they wouldn’t dare use in person or under their real names. I find it deeply cowardly. Psychologists have coined a phrase for this new behavior (the name escapes me). I am highly supportive of people who present their arguments with respectful tones, anonymous or not.

    FYI – I am delighted to report that some of our teachers taught units on Halloween this year despite the controversy. My younger daughter gave us a blow-by-blow of a Trick or Treating safety video she watched in class. They also made jack o’lanterns and talked about different ways to celebrate the holiday. I enthusiastically drop the costume issue in exchange for education! Learning about the different cultures that create a community means the world to me. I strongly believe ignoring them only serves to further polarize people.

    As for Nolan – I hear you! She was the one we toured with waaaay back when. My husband and I were thrilled to have such a tough-talking leader at the helm. She seemed to have complete faith in her teachers, a knack for confronting issues and a gift for grant-writing. While some were said to have found her directness off-putting, we found it comforting. Sadly, she left the year we entered the school. I know there are people (people I don’t know) who feel betrayed by our current leader, but like you, I encourage them to speak with him in person. Don’t let the necktie intimidate, one-on-one he’s actually a very warm person.

    Thanks again for your comment. Apology accepted.

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