The new principal for Riverside Elementary School in Princeton has canceled the traditional Halloween celebration and parade at the school in order to promote inclusivity.
Principal Ebony Lattimer told parents in an email on Sept. 21 that the Halloween celebration and parade would be eliminated as part of plans to build a more inclusive environment at the school.
“One of the ways we will do this is through pivoting from a Halloween celebration and parade, that in the past excluded many of our students, and having a Book Bonanza celebration,” Lattimer wrote. “This celebration will include the parade, socially distanced of course, but students will be asked to dress up as their favorite book character and celebrate why this character is their favorite. This includes comic books, books they enjoy at home, or school-provided books. This celebration will support two of our district goals for increased academic achievement and increased student attendance.”
Students sometimes don’t participate in Halloween activities at schools for religious or cultural reasons, or because of other issues like food allergies or sensory issues. Sometimes certain costumes children wear are also considered culturally insensitive. Some school leaders across the country are moving away from Halloween festivities altogether in order to promote inclusivity, while others are calling the day “black and orange spirit day.”
Officials at some other schools are seeking ways to continue the tradition but be more inclusive. Some schools offer non-food treats and adaptive costumes for special needs children, and provide lower-income children with costumes or help them make their own. The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes non-food trick-or-treat offerings for children with food allergies or other health or sensory issues.
Lattimer also noted in the email to parents that she is eliminating the school’s Valentine’s Day celebration in February and replacing it with an “Upstander Day” in February that she said will “highlight our students and the Riverside normative culture, as they display the upstander codes of respect, responsibility, safety, and positivity.”