Every year, school administrators and teachers grapple with the decision whether to allow students to celebrate Halloween on campus. Inappropriate costumes, poor conduct and religious reasons have all factored into the decision making process behind an increasing number of schools that are banning Halloween parties and costumes. Even many private schools have joined the fray as they try to juggle cultural sensitivity among an increasingly diverse student body.
Originally, some schools banned Halloween as a religious holiday so as to not favor Catholics over other Christian and non-Christian groups. This was done under the premise that All Hallows Evening, which became Halloween, was a Catholic holiday and part of the vigil to celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st. The 1st Amendment guarantees that government entities, like public schools, may not prefer one religion to another and that teaching or celebrating Halloween falls under the guidelines of teaching about religious beliefs or customs. Just as a school can’t be used to celebrate Rosh Hashanah or Ramadan, it can’t be used to celebrate Halloween either.
Certain conservative religious groups even consider Halloween as some sort of celebration of the devil and so rather than get involved in constitutional issues and pay deference to one religious group over another, schools decided to cancel the holiday all together.
In Halloween’s place, some schools have instituted “Fall Festivals” or “Harvest Day,” but those too come with their fair share of protest from the traditional trick-o-treat crowd. Many parents and parental groups are working civil rights attorneys to outright ban Halloween in their school districts.
With so many different cultures here in South Florida, we’re wondering how you feel.