At this point, children who attend Skokie-Morton Grove District 69 schools are not going to be having any Halloween celebrations, wearing costumes or having any parties, candy or cupcakes.
While the district's administration announced that decision earlier this week, Superintendent Dr. Quintin Shepherd, who made the decision without any formal input from the school board, said Wednesday he would listen to feedback from parents regarding the decision.
"Our board and I are constantly trying to seek reflective feedback," he said. "We have been responsive to the community on multiple occasions."
Earlier: District 69 cancels Halloween
So far, Shepherd said the feedback he has received at the district's office has been split down the middle.
"Some parents adamantly disagree. Other parents called our office and said thank you for addressing something that needs to be addressed," he said.
A petition on Change.org asking the district to reinstate the Halloween celebrations at the schools garnered 201 signatures in three days.
Reasons for stopping Halloween
Shepherd said that he had been hearing concerns from teachers and administrators that some children were uncomfortable celebrating Halloween for three years, but that other matters demanded his attention in the preceding years.
"They noticed more students were unable to participate in Halloween activities and they asked me if there was something we could do to try to address it," he said.
He felt this year was the right time.
He noted students could participate in Halloween activities sponsored by the Village of Skokie or the park districts. Also, Shepherd said the village of Skokie was putting together festivities and asked if the district would like to have students create Halloween decorations.
Shepherd replied yes, they would. "Teachers can say, 'those who are comfortable with it, they can do those projects,'" he said.
No specifics on reasons
Shepherd reiterated his earlier statement that the district canceled Halloween festivities because some families felt uncomfortable with it for religious, cultural and financial reasons.
"This is a cultural sensitivity thing for us--also sort of religious cultural. There are some that don't allow for the celebration of Halloween as part of the background."
When specifically asked which religious and cultural groups objected, he declined to say.
Groups which do not celebrate Halloween
Some experts on religion say that many conservative Christian denominations do not approve of celebrating Halloween. Patch did reach one Evangelical church in Skokie, but the pastor declined to speak on the record or permit the church name to be mentioned. He did say, however, that the church does not have any Halloween celebrations.
To get a mainstream Christian perspective, we turned to Rev. Prange at Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Morton Grove, which offers a preschool and K-8 school.
"Halloween does have some history relative to the occult," he said, explaining why some Christian denominations (mainly conservative) do not observe it.
Jerusalem Lutheran celebrates with a Pumpkin Fest for its school students. It includes non-scary costumes, games and candy.
"Most people--the general population-think of Halloween as a fun time. You wear costumes, you get candy, and that's that," Prange said.
Catholics and Jews generally celebrate Halloween as a light-hearted holiday. It also dovetails with the Catholic holy days of All Saints Day, Nov. 1, and All Souls Day, Nov. 2.
In Islam, "The official position of Islam is that, because of Halloween's roots in paganism, Halloween should not be celebrated. However, most Muslim families I know do think of it as a fun tradition and don't choose to make an issue of it with their children," said Karen Hunt-Ahmad, who is involved with the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove.
Rizwan Kadir, past president of the MCC's Full-Time School board, said, "It has been a fun thing for the kids. There are Muslims who participate in it--others don't."
An Islamic school would not celebrate it, however, because of its origins in pagan, polytheistic times, he said. Because Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the three monotheistic religions--whose people Muslims consider "people of the book"--there would be more acceptance of these religions' holidays, he indicated.
Dr. Shepherd also cited some families' concerns about expenses related to Halloween costumes and treats.
"We've spoken to families who have said 'this puts a financial burden on our families,'" he recounted. "They're entitled to their opinion."
When it was noted that schools in poverty-stricken areas of Chicago have not banned Halloween celebrations, Shepherd replied, "I did not mean to communicate that we stopped celebrating Halloween because people are poor. We're just trying to be cognizant of a lot of diversity in our district."
When asked if the district or PTO had considered a costume closet, in which parents could donate children's outgrown costumes to be loaned or given to other students, he said that had not been discussed.