The trees are colorful, and the air is finally cooler. Skeletons, scarecrows, and ghosts are appearing on front doors and lawns. It's Halloween once more.
You wouldn't know it in Portland, Oregon.
This year, many Portland public schools will not celebrate Halloween. The principal of Buckman Arts Elementary School, for example, released a statement stating “in the spirit of equity” the school would “deemphasize the celebration of Halloween.”
When I read this, my first reaction was negative. The spirit of equity? What the heck is that? I wondered. What's wrong with allowing young children to wear costumes to school and enjoy class parties where moms pass out treat filled goody bags and snap photographs for classroom bulletin boards? Are adults turning the American tradition of Halloween into yet another politically correct issue?
My kids attended school Halloween parties dressed as pirates, power rangers, skeletons. There's a suitcase filled with kiddy Halloween costumes stashed in my attic and albums full of adorable Halloween photos on my bookshelves. I attended classroom celebrations, supplied candy and cupcakes, helped with the spooky arts and craft projects, and photographed the Halloween parade. At no time did I hear anyone complain about the lack of “equity” or sensitivity. With this in mind, I scoffed at the notion that any school would “deemphasize” Halloween in the “spirit of equity.”
Then I remembered the kid in the aluminum foil.
The year my son dressed as a hippie (complete with wig, beard, purple sunglasses, psychedelic shirt, and jeans decorated with hand-painted peace symbols), a classmate arrived at school wrapped in aluminum foil. The kid was a robot, he said, but simply looked like a walking roll of tinfoil. His peers wondered aloud why he didn't have a decent costume. When wind ripped the robot suit during the outdoor parade, my heart went out to the kid.
The “spirit of equity” might not be such a bad idea after-all.
In lieu of the traditional costume Halloween observance, Buckman Arts in Portland will hold a “harvest celebration.” The kids can still eat candy, play games, paint pumpkins, make arts and crafts, but there will be no little boys in aluminum foil feeling inadequate or excluded among children dressed in fancy store bought or elaborate handmade costumes.
In a letter to school parents, Buckman Arts Principal Brian Anderson elaborated on the “the spirit of equity.”
“For many reasons, the celebration of Halloween at school can lead to student exclusion,” Mr. Anderson wrote. “There are social, financial and cultural differences among our families that we must respect.” Thus, the deemphasizing of the celebration of Halloween at his school.
I get it, and I imagine the kid wrapped in tinfoil would, too.
That being said, however, I am thankful I am not in Principal Anderson's shoes, trying to explain the “spirit of equity” to parents who want their kids to partake in an old-fashioned Halloween celebration in school.