When news spread that Inglewood Elementary School in Towamencin, Penn., was canceling Halloween celebrations over fear of offending religious sensibilities, many parents expressed outrage. The district has since attempted to temper the storm and clarify its stance, but confusion remains.
It all started when Principal Orlando Taylor sent a letter to parents this week notifying them that it is now district policy for schools "to not sponsor or support the celebration of Halloween parades, Halloween parties, or dressing in Halloween costumes," WPVI-TV reports.
Parents quickly reacted and voiced their discontent with the new regulations.
"I think it's a disgrace. I can't even explain how infuriated I am with this," said parent parent David Braun. "Now we're taking out Halloween. Even with the Pledge of Allegiance, that was up for debate because we mentioned God in it. When are people just going to stop and let schools be schools?"
Others expressed similar sentiment and decried the notion that the North Penn School District would deprive students of Halloween celebrations.
But district officials claim that the details of the story have been muddled and that the new regulations were never intended to hamper Halloween fun.
A representative told WPVI-TV that crackdowns on religious elements associated with the holiday involve protecting class instruction. While Halloween parties are apparently still allowed in classrooms, they will no longer be district sanctioned and must be decided upon by school principals.
It is unclear if officials changed their minds about the Halloween policy once negative media hit or if Taylor was simply incorrect in his original assertions.
Photo Credit: AP
In a statement published on the district website, district leaders did say that the principal's letter was inaccurate and they attempted to explain the overarching rules on holiday celebrations. Here's more from that statement:
The Inglewood Elementary School letter addressing Halloween is not an accurate representation of the school district’s administrative regulation (Regulation 6119 below). Schools are permitted to have Halloween parties in their classrooms during the school day and school-wide activities such as parades are permitted before and after the school day. In fact Inglewood Elementary school will hold such a Fall Festival, with Halloween costumes and activities, on the evening of October 18th. Halloween and fall related activities being held at NPSD’s 18 schools include a Halloween dance, fall festivals, harvest festivals, trick or treating and more.
The regulation, which pertains to all holidays and cultural observations not just Halloween, was studied and reviewed by staff, parents and the Educational/Community/Policy Committee of the North Penn School District Board of School Directors before the changes were made this past spring. The administrative regulation is designed to preserve the greatest amount of instructional time possible for our students. As academic rigor increases for students and as state and federal expectations rise, we must continue to focus our time and resources on student achievement.
The district's stance, which was apparently recently adopted, though, could lead to additional controversy during the coming holiday season, particularly when it comes to Christmas. The regulation also reads, "Religious holidays may not be celebrated during the school day. Celebration is defined as school sponsored prayer, worship, glorification or ritual related to a holiday."
When it comes to a "ritual related to a holiday," what, exactly, is this referencing? And are there no secular celebrations allowed -- even for perceived religious holidays like Christmas -- during school days?
Many questions still remain.
A representative at district headquarters told TheBlaze that officials have not been doing interviews on the matter, but she passed on our request for additional comment.