Halloween was almost cancelled this year after one Toronto elementary school sent an email to parents saying that they were encouraged not to wear costumes to school. Sloane Public School reversed the ban a day after it was announced following public outcry.
The initial decision sparked a debate about cultural and economic accommodations for students. School officials said that they didn’t want to ruin anyone’s fun when the announcement was first made. Instead, they hoped to bridge a socio-economic divide between students who would wear costumes to school and those who wouldn’t.
Sloane Public School is located in a multicultural suburb of North York where there’s greater economic and cultural disparity than the national average. There are almost two times as many students from low-income families compared to other Ontario schools, and three times as many students whose parents come from countries where English and French aren’t spoken as commonly.
The elementary school did not want to isolate those students who could not afford a costume or who did not celebrate Halloween as part of their culture. “The administration and the teachers need to be in tune with what’s happening in their school community because every school is different and has different needs,” said Prof. Youmans.
Some parents were not pleased when they read the email. One mother who immigrated to Canada from Albania said, “We don’t have Halloween at home, but we have to adapt. It’s a tradition. I don’t understand why this year is different.” The mother of two students at the school said, “My son cried when he found out. We’re just happy they reversed the decision.”
The debate over celebrating Halloween is similar to the fight about celebrating Christmas. During the holidays, many Canadians are encouraged to say “happy holidays” and throw ‘winter’ or ‘holiday’ celebrations rather than Christmas parties. In 2018, one school cancelled their Christmas concert to accommodate nine students that didn’t want to participate. It was later replaced with a February concert.
While the issue has been settled this year, it will inevitably resurface during the next holiday. Should schools stop celebrations in order to be considerate of cultural and socio-economic differences? While schools make the decisions, it looks like the power is in the hands of the parents.