Halloween banned in Washington city’s schools
October 30, 2004
PUYALLUP, Wash. – The school superintendent’s order was final. Halloween was “prohibited” during school hours. Black cats, pointy hats and all images of witches could no longer be displayed in any of the 31 schools in this suburb south of Seattle.
The first official reason: Halloween parties and costumes detract from the district’s core mission of academic achievement in a competitive world.
The second official reason: “We have been contacted by followers of the Wiccan religion, and they indicated they have been offended after seeing elementary school depictions of witches with long noses, warts, cauldrons and such,” said superintendent Tony Apostle.
When Apostle’s order was issued two weeks ago, parents alerted the media and howled about political correctness. “What is next? Santa?” many asked.
They packed a school board meeting last week, where children waved signs (“Ghosts and Goblins Have Rights, Too”) and parents jeered the superintendent, along with the school board that supported his Halloween edict.
The Puyallup Halloween uprising is not an isolated event. It is part of a contentious nationwide trend, as public school administrators, in the name of test-centered learning and multicultural sensitivity, attempt to abbreviate and homogenize classroom celebrations of Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
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To prepare even kindergarten-age children for a career of standardized testing, recess, naps and field trips, in-school parties of all kinds are being cut back or phased out in many schools nationwide, according to Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the National Education Association. He said the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which starts testing at third grade, has accelerated the trend.
To make public schools more sensitive to the needs of a nation with 2,000 religions and 20 million nonbelievers, harvest festivals are replacing Halloween and winter celebrations are cutting into Christmas parties, according to Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“Every year there are battles about this stuff, as autumn leaves replace witches’ broomsticks and snowflakes replace Christmas trees,” Lynn said.
Lynn said his organization gets angry calls around Halloween from pagans disturbed by public schools displaying images of ugly witches and from fundamentalist Christian parents who say Halloween promotes non-Christian faith.
Complaints from Pentecostal parents in Texas have forced many school districts to cancel in-school parties.