Should Teachers Be Able to Cancel or Change Halloween at School?

Its just a few days from the BIG DAY! You know, the day that kids (and adults) get to dress up as anything they want and pretend happily for the expanse of an evening to be something they are not. Best part, they collect a reward for doing so, in the form of candy. Halloween is looked at as one of the most fun and most thrilling themed holidays of the year and it is estimated that billions of dollars are spent by children and adults alike to partake in the big day.

But boy has Halloween changed. Back in the day, costumes were hand made and creative, often simple. Today, Halloween costumes can include anything from Zombies and aliens and horror film characters to sexy maids, Disney characters, and evil villains. And apparently, the shift in costumes and the ghouly nature of the holiday has a lot of schools canceling and changing Halloween festivities. Additionally, in many places Halloween is basically cancelled altogether and parents are only allowed to bring ‘fall items’ (no black cats, ghosts, or spooky garb or even witches) to decorate at preschool parties due to religious beliefs and worries about censorship.

In fact, if you have visited any of the overnight pop-up Halloween stores that open their doors at the beginning of October, you might be leery of bringing a child inside to search for an Elsa costume due to the graphic and gory and often X-Rated nature of some of the items in stock.

For a multitude of reasons, schools have taken charge and most have some sort of parameters in line for what kids are allowed and not allowed to wear or represent during Halloween. In the US, many schools altogether have banned costumes, even in the elementary grades, and changed the theme to simple black and orange dress up day. The majority of school also ban items like guns, or swords or face paint or frightening masks from the Halloween agenda in a dire attempt to keep the holiday fun, kid friendly and un-offensive to any one who may disagree. This prompts many families to buy two costumes. One for trick or treating and another for school/church functions.

Certainly, rules are necessary, but are these rules and guidelines both necessary and justified? After all, it’s Halloween. Shouldn’t kids and parents be able to get knee deep in the festivities and play a little make-believe without worrying about rules? Isn’t it all in good fun?

The reality is that as children’s exposure has changed, so has the theme of Halloween. Where years ago typical costumes were a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, a witch, a TV character, cowboys and Indians – today kids are dressing up as mass murderers, devils and frightening creatures. Worse, are some of the costumes marketed to young girls violate dress codes and are certainly more on the sexy side than they are on the fun side. With the availability of so many different costumes, and exposure to video game violence and characters from horror movies, dressing up for Halloween has become a crapshoot for schools and organizations trying to keep the holiday fun and kid friendly. What schools do not want, is KID A being terrified by KID B who dressed up as a devil. Schools do not want PARENT A calling news media because PARENT B allowed their son to bring a small fake revolver to school as part of his cowboy outfit. And certainly, they don’t want FAMILY A to be offended due to religious beliefs by a costume that the kid from FAMILY B wore to school. Kids are certainly a product of their environment and Halloween costumes are one day of the year that you can get a look inside the homes of others to see what is considered normal and acceptable in their home.

In many ways, due to careless decision-making by parents who allow their kids to dress scantily, or in costumes that somehow violate the comfort zone of society as well as parents who are desperately trying to keep their children sheltered and feel their religious or personal beliefs take precedence – schools have had no choice but to impose some limits. Halloween has become a case of trying to please everyone, which has slowly but surely whittled away at the freedom kids of yesterday were offered during this time of year. And as a society as our desire for ultimate political correctness increases, it probably won’t be long before schools and youth organizations opt out of Halloween altogether.

Like most things, Halloween is what you make of it. If you ask your children, they are just thrilled for the opportunity to dress up and get free candy. For them, the holiday is still simple. Parents are typically the ones who complicate the holiday and force school systems to take some sort of action as a whole, rather than deal with problems on a case-by-case basis. In so many ways, it’s a shame that a cowboy can’t holster on a fake gun for the holiday, or a little girl cannot dress up as a scary witch without some sort of ramification. Its also a shame that schools have had to take a stand, on what is innocently and simply a fun, exciting and creative time for children to explore their imagination and pick up a little candy along the way.

What do you think? Are schools going too far? Is it really their responsibility to monitor and apply guidelines for what is considered acceptable costumes for Halloween, or are parents fully capable of making these decisions?



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