While a Pennsylvania school’s decision to cancel Halloween costumes made national headlines for its religious overtones, Grand County schools say their priority is on education first.
This October brought a national dialogue about the religious implications of Halloween. Some sides argued the holiday has its roots in religious celebrations, and school-sponsored costumes and events violate the separation between church and state. Others rant schools have scared themselves out of letting kids have any holiday fun.
East Grand School District has no specific policy banning holiday costumes as long as they abide by the dress code. The code says student apparel shouldn’t be disruptive in the classroom environment. Principals and accountability committees at individual schools, however, can waive portions of the policy for special days. Still, most of East Grand Schools have opted out of Halloween dress.
“With the four-day week and limited time we have with students, we’re trying to maximize educational focus,” said Principal James Chamberlin at Fraser Valley Elementary.
Chamberlin also said while education is the primary driver, the costume ban helps foster an environment of respect.
“There are a lot of different beliefs and values around Halloween,” he said. “We want to respect that not everyone celebrates in the same way.”
Granby Elementary has also chosen not to allow costumes at Halloween. But at East Grand Middle School, educators and students have struck a compromise. Students are allowed to dress up all week for Red Ribbon Week, which promotes drug use awareness and prevention. Each day of the week has a different costume theme decided by the student council. The theme on Thursday will be “retro day,” when students can choose to wear clothing from decades past. The middle school’s principal Jenny Rothboeck said themes help keep kids’ costumes appropriate.
“It’s just easier to keep things manageable when we decide our own dress-up days,” she said.
At West Grand Schools, costumes are allowed, as long as they adhere to the district’s dress code and aren’t too scary for younger children.
“Teachers give examples to students so they understand what appropriate means and what overly scary means as well,” said West Grand middle and high school principal Kyle York.
For further holiday compromise, Fraser Valley Elementary, East Grand Middle School and West Grand schools sponsor after-school Halloween celebrations. Fraser Valley Elementary hosts the Costume Creep in mid-October, an optional after-school carnival where kids and families can come dressed in costumes. East Grand Middle School hosts a Halloween Dance after class on Thursday evening.
West Grand Elementary and Middle School classes have a Halloween party the last hour of school, and students can opt out of participating. West Grand High School holds a fall festival dance where students have the option of donning Halloween costumes. But their focus is more on rallying for the upcoming volleyball regional and football state competitions.
At Middle Park High School, administrators have decided against school-sponsored holiday events, but like West Grand, they’ll allow costumes within reason.
“We’re adhering to dress codes on Halloween, just like any other day,” said Principal Scott Eldred. “It’s pretty low-key. We’re trying to not let those things take away from day-to-day learning experience.”
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.
“There are a lot of different beliefs and values around Halloween. We want to respect that not everyone celebrates in the same way.”
Fraser Valley Elementary Principal James Chamberlin