Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Who knew that Halloween would be an issue. But it is.

At least at Seth Boyden School, which initially cancelled festivities on Monday, but reversed that move a day later.

Still, the flip-flop has sparked a debate over whether Halloween is a valid thing to be celebrated at school. The Star-Ledger took a look at it as well today.

The uproar began Monday when Seth Boyden principal Mark Quiles sent home the following letter:

Dear Families,

After years of significant debate within the District and the Seth Boyden community, I have come to the difficult decision to discontinue the celebration of Halloween at Seth Boyden during the school day (i.e., no parade, no costumes). While I appreciate that the Halloween Parade is a much-loved tradition for many families, I have made this decision based on several factors:
  • Given the diversity of religions and traditions in the Seth Boyden community, we have seen an increasing number of students opting out of celebrating Halloween. On average, 80-90 children are separated from their peers during this time. Man of these children are taken to other parts of the school while Halloween celebrations occur. Even though they are otherwise engaged, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to sanction this type of segregation.
  • A growing number of families choose to keep their children at home that day in order to avoid this sense of missing out. This absenteeism removes students from the educational process and is a loss of precious instructional time.
  • We are all aware that our fall months are  already fractured in terms of teaching time, and we believe the hours lost in celebrating Halloween, along with the distractions leading up to the actual celebrations, can be much better used.
It is inconsistent with the values of our school community to allow activities that will encroach on the educational opportunities of others and threaten a culture of tolerance and respect for all. After all, “…it is the goal of the South Orange Maplewood School District to foster mutual understanding and respect for the right of all individuals regarding their beliefs, values and customs. In pursuing this goal, we recognize that we serve a diverse community with varying cultural, ethnic and religious orientation.”

I know that this will be an unpopular decision with some of you, but trust that if your family enjoys celebrating Halloween, you will have many other opportunities to do so. We are grateful for our engaged family community and hope that we can continue to foster an environment in which ALL families can participate.

Mark J. Quiles Principal

But Acting Superintendent James Memoli reversed the original Seth Boyden order in an email to parents Tuesday. He also said the district would review the issue and put in place a district-wide policy before next year's festivities.

One of the problems appears to be that teachers and staff do not want to take time away from teaching, while costumes at all grade levels have become more and more of an issue with security when masks are worn and such, and concerns about offensive and unacceptable dress. District officials also say some kids do not want to participate and may feel left out.

 The district, in a related move, is reviewing a new dress code next Monday.

Holiday controversy is not new to the school district, which was forced to eliminate religious songs from its annual holiday concerts after a 2004 lawsuit by a parent who claimed it was a violation of freedom of religion.

There is also the issue of parents in the classroom, a situation that is being reviewed and may include limits that would keep most parents out of classrooms to allow for fire and building codes to be observed.

Do not expect the issue to end here.


Anonymous said... about missing the real story.

The issue that we should be talking about is not whether the principal should have cancelled Halloween celebrations.

The real scandal is how the principal had his letter vetted and approved by the board atty, asst superintendent and the acting superintendent and then when the press started asking questions the administration threw him under the bus.

Maybe if Maplewood (and countless other NJ districts) hadn't lost great superintendents to Gov Christie's misguided Superintendent Salary Cap these towns would have better leadership and we could avoid such stupid problems.

Anonymous said...

They should NOT cancel it. This is getting insane.