Why some schools are swapping Halloween out for ‘seasonal’ celebrations

One district has already reversed course on canceling an elementary school Halloween parade after some parents complained they weren't consulted.

Halloween is becoming more of a ghostly presence in some schools this fall as educators plan seasonally-oriented celebrations that they say are more inclusive of all students’ spiritual beliefs. Some administrations also contend that costumes can strain some families’ finances and that getting ready for a parade can take up valuable instruction time.

But the decisions are being met with howls of derision in some communities.

School officials in Northborough, Massachusetts reversed course on canceling an elementary school Halloween parade after some parents complained they weren’t consulted about the change. Superintendent Gregory Martineau told NBC Boston that, last year, more than 100 elementary school students opted out of the parade and officials did not want those children to feel left out again in 2023. The school had intended to replace the parade with a “fall-themed spirit day,” CBS News Boston added.

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But Martineau also acknowledged on the district’s website that he and his team should have included parents in the decision. “As the principals and I reconsidered,” he wrote in a community message, “we took a ‘Yes and’ decision-making approach—Having an in-school Halloween parade and ensuring that students have options if they are not planning to participate in the parade, whether from being scared of costumes and anxious about marching in a parade or Halloween not being aligned with family beliefs.”

Any Halloween celebrations at the South Orange Maplewood School District in New Jersey will have to take place outside school hours. “Is promoting school-sponsored Halloween activities creating indirect and unintentional financial hardships for students and families? Do school-sponsored Halloween activities violate the dignity of some of our students and families, either culturally or religiously? Does the promotion of school-sponsored Halloween activities create tensions with the equity and access values of SOMSD?” Superintendent Ronald G., Taylor asked in a community message cited by The Village Green.

Administrators there are leaning toward holding a student-centered Fall Festival, the message said.

Students at Taft Elementary in Iowa’s Humboldt Community School District will participate in fall-themed parties instead of traditional Halloween activities, KCCI.com reported. “All decisions we make are in the best interests of students while considering instructional time, attendance, families having the financial means to participate, and being inclusive to those from all backgrounds,” Superintendent Jim Murray told the station.

In New York, administrators in North Colonie Central Schools also informed parents that the district’s elementaries will be shifting away from Halloween costume parties, News10.com reported.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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