CNSNews.com - Children in the Puyallup, Wash., School District will not take part in Halloween celebrations this year, partly because school officials consider Halloween celebrations offensive to real witches.
On Oct. 15, the superintendent of the school district banned all Halloween parades and parties to be held during school hours, citing three main reasons. One is that celebrations would take time away from classroom activities for students. Also, not all of the children's families can afford costumes.
But the third reason has both children and parents in Puyallup confused. The superintendent said Halloween costumes and celebrations might offend those who practice the Wiccan religion, of which there are a number of groups in Puyallup.
Karen Hansen, a spokesperson for the Puyallup School District, told Seattle news station KOMO 4 News, "Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion, and so we went to be respectful of that."
Hansen told CNSNews.com that the decision was prompted by complaints from a number of religious groups, not just Wiccans, who were uncomfortable with Halloween celebrations during the school day.
The decision is in accordance with the district's guidelines for observing holidays, which states: "Use of derogatory stereotypes is prohibited, such as the traditional image of a witch, which is offensive to members of the Wiccan religion." However, 2004 is the first year the superintendent has chosen to cancel Halloween celebrations during school hours based on that rule.
Some parents of children at Maplewood Elementary School say the decision is political correctness run amok and is unfair to the children. At Maplewood, it is tradition for the children to parade through the school in their costumes.
"[For] the younger children, to come in in their little butterfly costumes or their little clown costumes, to me, it's a part of childhood," Marilyn McCoy, whose child attends Maplewood, told KOMO 4 News. Silas Macon, another parent, also told KOMO 4, "I think it just kind of takes away from the little stuff they do that's fun at school."
Some parents have also expressed fear that other school holiday celebrations will be in jeopardy, especially in light of other developments in Puyallup schools, such as calling Christmas concerts "Winter Festivals" and the use of the term "harvest celebration" in place of Halloween.
KOMO 4 reported that many kids, too, are "devastated" by the ruling, disappointed that they cannot dress up and celebrate.
But Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Patti Spencer told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Friday, "In many of our schools we have quite a few students whose families don't celebrate the traditional Halloween. So we want to move toward things that are more inclusive."
Hansen maintained that the main reason for the decision was to ensure that students be respectful of all religions and cultures. Wicca is a legally recognized religion, and according to a memo circulated throughout the school in October 2000 by Assistant Superintendent Tony Apostle, it deserves the same protection as mainstream religions.
The memo also noted that while "decorations that are intended to...scare individuals," like witches and black cats," are banned, cornstalks and pumpkins are permissible. Schools can also hold parades after school if they wish.
And not all parents are objecting. Puyallup parent Holly Cockerman said in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that her third-grader was not too disappointed. "They're still going trick-or-treating," she said. "I don't think it's that big of an issue..."
Hansen also said that while she has received a fair number of complaints about the decision, there have been a lot of compliments as well. She adds that "for the most part, most schools were already doing [Halloween celebrations] outside of the school day," and therefore are unaffected by the rule.
Parents appealed the ruling at the school board meeting Monday night, but the board upheld the superintendent's decision.
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