PUYALLUP – After KOMO 4 News first reported that the Puyallup School superintendent had cancelled all Halloween festivities in Puyallup schools, a flood of email and phone calls followed: to the district office and to KOMO-TV.
The outrage was almost universal. And if the school board didn’t have a good handle on that outrage before Monday night’s school board meeting they certainly did after.
It started with students in costumes and toting picket signs asking poignant school-kid questions like “what’s next Santa?”
Inside Ballou Junior High School dozens of the children and parents wore costumes in protest and gave the school superintendent something much less than a Halloween treat.
“It’s rare for our town of Puyallup to make the national news,” said Puyallup parent Bebe Colley. “Unfortunately we did not make it by greatness of achievement. We made it by being ridiculous.”
“These kids do not offend people by the way they dress,” said another mom with her two young children beside her in their Halloween costumes. “They dress because they look up to what they dress as. It’s a day for them to pretend to be someone they want to be.”
And at least one self proclaimed Wiccan agreed with the majority of parents who attended the meeting. Wiccans are the religious group cited in school district guidelines as in need of protection from negative stereotyping.
“I want to assure you that Wiccans, Pagans and witches and other members of our faith community on the whole are not offended,” said Larry Klingele.
There was one brave voice of dissent. An elementary school student who is Jewish told the school board and the crowd of several hundred that she is offended by Halloween and celebrations in school.
“You’re just missing out on a couple parties,” said Allison Schultz addressing the concerns of other students upset by the cancellation of Halloween parties in class. “You’re just missing out on coloring your fun skeleton creepy worksheets. It’s not a big deal.”
But for one full hour Monday night parents, students, and self-proclaimed Wiccans, Pagans, and witches, told the school board this was a big deal and that they want the board to reconsider.
“If your spirituality or your religion is that fragile keep your kid at home on that day,” said another parent. “Let’s not remove the culture from our community.”
When we first reported the Puyallup School District’s decision to cancel all in-school Halloween festivities, including parties and costumes, a district spokesperson cited three reasons: that parties are a waste of valuable classroom time, that some students can’t afford costumes, and that some members of the community (specifically Wiccans) could find Halloween stereotypes offensive.
After an hour of verbal bombardment at the school board meeting the same spokesperson says the decision will not change.
“As far as I know the decision was final,” said Karen Hansen after the meeting. “The board I’m sure is going to consider the comments that were made but I don’t expect a change.”
“Would you expect an announcement of any kind that there is or is not going to be a reconsideration?” I asked.
“I don’t believe so,” said Hansen. “I don’t believe there’s going to be a comment on this issue.”