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After Canceling Halloween, District Could Change Stance

D-69 shocked many parents this week by canceling all Halloween costumes, parades, parties and candy for students. But the superintendent says while the decision stands for now, he will listen to feedback.

 

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.

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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. 

Economic diversity

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.

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Caitlin October 08, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Let the kids have some fun. IT'S JUST ONE DAY! This is ridiculous.
Doll B October 11, 2012 at 09:17 AM
How about asking them to vote Ham, Pepperoni, and Sausage back on the school lunch menu's? They imposed a "Pork Free District" lunch menu a number of years back which is unfair to those whose religion doesn't restrict it. How about a separate "Pork Free Option" for those who can't eat pork due to their religious dietary restrictions and a regular menu for those who aren't restricted. Doesn't seem fair to impose religious restrictions that some observe on people who don't observe them.
Lisa October 11, 2012 at 03:06 PM
The only way we even remember the children's elementary school is through the shows that they put on (pictures) Choir (pictures), Halloween (pictures) and parent teacher conferences. I don't think the real issue here is Halloween. I think the real issue is that in a world of trying to get parents and school together for the sake of the children, coopting time and resources before, during and after the school year, the administration decided to shut out parent opinion. There are alot of childrne for religious reasons who don't take certain health classes. They go to other rooms. I don't hear the school say, gee, we better not show these "health" films because of the increasing number of children whose parents don't want them to be taught about sex, homosexuals, etc. Perhaps that is next.
Z October 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I'm more interested in healthier lunches, not Ham, Pepperoni and Sausage. We already have an obesity issue in the schools and in the families.
John P Maher October 17, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Why doesn't Mr Quentin Shepard also order Mexicans to stop celebrating their festival of "Las Brujas"? Why not also ban English since it was originally the language of pagans? Oh, let's not ban Political Correctness, but have an event where we bob for apples, drink apple cider, wear funny faces and say BOO to PC charlatans?

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