The superintendent of a New Jersey school district banned official Halloween celebrations throughout the entire school, using the rationale of ‘promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.’
The superintendent argued that these festivities could potentially be upsetting to individuals from various cultural and religious backgrounds.
Families of students in the South Orange & Maplewood School District received a letter on October 6 from Dr. Ronald G. Taylor, the superintendent of SOMD. In the letter, he urged parents to contemplate the ways in which school-sponsored Halloween festivities might worsen inequality.
According to Taylor, figuring out how Halloween should be celebrated has always been a challenging matter to address.
“As you know, SOMSD is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion meaningfully — not just saying the words but also promoting an inclusive school…Our aim is to build a consistent approach across the District as to how our schools observe and celebrate holidays and special events,” Taylor wrote. “Each year, questions arise from families, students, and staff about what SOMSD schools will be doing regarding Halloween.”
The superintendent informed parents that the school’s Halloween celebrations have been canceled and encouraged families to think about how the school’s endorsement of the holiday might potentially affect students’ “dignity.”
“Is promoting school-sponsored Halloween activities creating indirect and unintentional financial hardships for students and families? Do school-sponsored Halloween activities violate the dignity of some of our students and families, either culturally or religiously?” he wrote. “Does the promotion of school-sponsored Halloween activities create tensions with the equity and access values of SOMSD?”
In the school district, students are not allowed to wear costumes or participate in Halloween-themed events during school hours.
“I know this may make some uncomfortable and elicit some challenges across our community,” Taylor continued. “However, in the end, I feel these recommendations align with SOMSD’s commitment to building equity, fostering inclusion, and building a sense of belonging throughout our schools.”
The district’s website reports that the decision to cancel Halloween is backed by an “overwhelming” response from principals across schools in the district.