Even as the Waterloo Region District School Board insists it’s not cancelling Halloween, an online petition is calling for the board to reverse its restrictive measures.
The board has advised schools to discourage the wearing of costumes, decorations, handing out candy and just about anything related to Halloween other than permitting the wearing of orange and black clothing.
“The board is not ‘cancelling’ Halloween. The guidance pertains specifically to costumes, schools actively decorating common areas, sharing of treats and/or engaging in activities such as parades. Sharing of traditions and class-based learning activities are fine. School wide practices including alternative ways to mark the day such as Black and Orange Day is fine,” the board said in a statement, declining to comment on the controversy.
A petition on Change.org currently has more than 3,800 signatures calling for the board to reverse its stance.
“Life is too short not to be enjoyed. Is dressing up in a Halloween costume at the expense of others? Or is it a longstanding, fun tradition that is not aimed at hurting others who do not observe it?” wrote petition organizer Linzi Schmidt.
“For kids, especially, it is meant as a way to celebrate their favourite TV or movie character, a magical animal, a hero or, yes, even a ghoul or ghost.”
Thus far, the board has no intention of backing down, as the director of education made clear at Monday night’s meeting of trustees
“We’re not planning to withdraw, we have clarified what we mean, and now I’m also on record saying there are no plans to cancel Halloween,” said Jeewan Chanicka, the Waterloo Region Record reported.
“We also recognize for some students it can be quite a harmful day on more than one level, and often times those families are scared to say how they’re feeling. Some families that we know are making choices to go without food so that they can purchase a costume for their child.”
The board insists the policy is no different from last year, not cancelling Halloween, just all the activities associated with it, save for the likes of black and orange shirts, which have been deemed safe and for now, inoffensive.
“From a health and safety standpoint, the WRDSB is following a similar approach regarding Halloween in prioritizing the health and safety of school environments, as we did last year and in previous years. A departure from this commitment to health and safety would be inconsistent with the promise we have made to families to provide a safe learning environment for all,” read the statement.
“From an equity and inclusion standpoint, not all families celebrate Halloween, for many reasons including cultural, religious, socio-economic and personal. The spirit of inclusion also means respect for the decision of those who can’t or choose not to participate in these activities.
“Halloween costumes, decorations and practices may (and have) caused harm to Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities through the appropriation of ceremonial dress, and the mocking of racialized identities and ethno-religious groups, etc.
“Halloween should be a day in which all of our students/families feel like they can participate in public education. But we have many families who do not send their children to school on Halloween because it is not in line with their beliefs and their feeling that their children are excluded from learning opportunities when the entire school is seen as observing Halloween. This leads to the exclusion of students.”
All Hallow’s Eve falls on a Sunday this year.