Halloween has disappeared from most local schools

glloyd@newsobserver.comOctober 30, 2012 

— For many students in the Triangle, Halloween is just another day in school – no candy, no costumes, no zombies.

Although no Triangle districts officially bar Halloween celebrations, most local schools follow a nationwide trend and have replaced Halloween celebrations with festivals or just treat the day like any other.

“Most don’t do anything,” said Durham Public Schools spokeswoman Robin McCoy. “In history classes, teachers may incorporate it into some sort of historical lesson, but districtwide, we certainly don’t recognize it.”

In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, spokesman Jeff Nash said emailed a memo to the district’s principals Oct. 11 discouraging Halloween celebrations in the classroom.

“Staff members should be advised to forego Halloween costume parties for students during the instructional day in lieu of fall-themed educational activities,” he wrote. “The observation of the holiday, particularly with costumes, conflicts with the religious beliefs of some of our families.”

The unofficial policy has been in place for several years, said Tamara Daley, president of the Carrboro Elementary School PTA. She speculated the decision could have been made because some children did not have costumes, the holiday was a distraction or because the large local population of Karen immigrants from Myanmar (formerly Burma) has not historically celebrated Halloween.

Overall, parents accept that their children will celebrate Halloween at home, Daley said, and some are even relieved that they do not have to get their kids into costumes more than once.

The fall festival many district schools hold usually includes pumpkins and other seasonal elements, said Crystal Epps, assistant principal at Frank Porter Graham Elementary in Chapel Hill.

“Classrooms are still having celebrations, but it’s an October-ish party instead,” Epps said.

Nash said the district shuns Halloween not because of any specific complaints but out of respect for the diverse student population.

“Probably moreso than in our neighboring districts, we’ve got people from all over the world who are here,” he said. “There’s too much risk of offending somebody who might not celebrate that holiday or might find it offensive… Why have a celebration that might offend somebody when the kids can do that in their homes, their neighborhoods, their churches?”

Although the district is discouraging principals from formally celebrating the holiday, high school students could decide on their own to dress up for Halloween, Nash said.

“If they want to dress up as a robot one day, there’s no law against that,” he said.

Wake County Schools also has no official policy regarding Halloween celebrations, but there still will not be any classroom celebrations this year in its schools. The school board scheduled an annual October teacher workday for its traditional-calendar schools for Halloween this year, spokeswoman Samiha Khanna said. None of the seven year-round schools in Wake County are officially celebrating Halloween, either.

Orange County Schools spokesman Michael Gilbert said he was unaware of any district-wide policy regarding Halloween, but he knew that several teachers had asked students to dress up as characters from their favorite books or as characters from Greek mythology.

Students at New Hope Elementary School in Chapel Hill are dressing as their favorite literary character in honor of Red Ribbon Week, while kindergarteners are the only students dressing up at Hillsborough’s Cameron Park Elementary. At Efland Cheeks Elementary in Efland, many teachers are incorporating scary, creepy or seasonal topics into their lesson plans for the day, he said. The district bars masks and weapons from costumes.

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