NJ school district rescinds ban on Halloween costumes

October 28, 2011 6:27:01 AM PDT
A New Jersey school district that had banned Halloween costumes has rescinded the order.

Springfield Schools Superintendent Michael Davino announced the move in a letter to parents. He said he changed his mind based on feedback from the community and after learning that elementary schools were already planning Halloween parties on Monday.

The following is the full text of the letter.

"This memorandum is designed to clarify the status of Halloween celebrations in our elementary schoolshere in Springfield. Over the past two years, with Halloween falling on the weekend, I have taken the opportunity to remindour principals that this holiday should not be an excuse for an all-day costume party which would detract from, if not squander, an entire day otherwise set aside to educate our students.

"In that context, principals were specifically instructed not to set aside large blocks of time for Halloweencelebrations this year. Thus, when I issued the directive that costumes not be permitted, because they were distracting and likely to waste time, it was my understanding that all of our principals had complied with the directive not to set aside time for lengthy parties.

"Since issuing that directive, I have come to understand that the elementary schools, without my knowledge, were planning Halloween parties on Monday.

"Having discovered that, and having heard feedback from the community, I agree that there seems little point in preventing children from wearing costumes because these parties are taking up educational time anyway. Rather than force the cancellation of these parties at the last minute, I hereby rescind my prior directive and will permit elementary school children to wear costumes at the Halloween celebrations previously scheduled.

"This decision does not diminish in any way my sincere concern that Halloween serves as a poor substitute for the educational process, which, many say, already falls short of accomplishing all of ourgoals within the 180 days provided on our school calendar. I respect the desires of parents and their young children to engage in some appropriate Halloween activity, just as I am sure that they wouldnot want to waste precious educational time.

"Therefore, well in advance of the 2012 school year, I will be meeting with my staff to discuss the continued implementation of practices and procedures that support a cohesive educational environment."

Earlier, critics unhappy with the ban had called on the Union County district's Board of Education to reconsider the policy, saying it prevents "kids from being kids."

But the board declined, saying Halloween has become a "social holiday," not an educational one. They also note that students have ample time after school to celebrate the day in costume.

"It detracts from the educational day," Board President Pat Venezia said. "I can attest to it. I was once a PTA mom who helped put on those (Halloween) parties. You lose a whole afternoon of instruction and, because kids are anticipating it, you lose part of the morning as well. That's just how kids are."

Officials say it's unusual for districts to ban Halloween costumes at elementary schools, though some bar those that emulate dangerous or demeaning characters. But Acting State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf says the state has no formal policy on Halloween costumes in school, calling it "the type of matter that should be left to local decision-makers."