School district sparks backlash after ‘cancelling’ Halloween

‘A day that is merely about costumes and fun has turned political’

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 27 October 2021 15:39
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Parents in a school district in Massachusetts are upset over a decision to remove Halloween celebrations from the classroom in an effort to foster inclusion.

Melrose Public Schools superintendent  Julie Kukenberger announced the district would “deemphasize” Halloween and instead shift its focus toward “community building through fall celebrations” in a letter to parents last week.

“We pride ourselves on being, ‘one community, open to all’. For this to be true, we must live this mantra in all that we do. This includes in school celebrations,” Dr Kukenberger wrote.

Melrose Patch reported the decision to ban use of the word Halloween and celebrations from schools had caused a backlash among parents.

More than 2300 people have signed an online petition calling for the ban to be overturned.

“A day that is merely about costumes and fun has turned political,” wrote parent Carolyn Finocchiaro, who started the petition.

Mother Carolyn Finocchiaro is pushing back against a move to ‘cancel’ Halloween in her children’s school district

The mother of three told NBC Boston the decision “came out of nowhere”.

“Teachers are being told to take down jack-o’-lanterns from their rooms and replace them with leaves. They are not just de-emphasizing Halloween. They are removing the term and everything that goes with it,” Ms Finocchario said.

Ms Kukenberger was criticised for a lack of transparency over the decision-making process at a Melrose Public Schools committee meeting on Tuesday night, Melrose Patch reported.

“When you have traditions and rituals and routines and those are suddenly removed, I think that’s what upset families,” school committee member John Obremski said.

Committee chair Jen McAndrew told Melrose Patch the superintendent wasn’t “cancelling” Halloween.

“She’s not getting in the way of fun classroom activities and celebrations. Instead, Dr. Kukenberger and her leadership team are broadening fall celebrations beyond Halloween, and deemphasizing it as the focus, which I support.”

Earlier this year, the school committee decided to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

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