The new principal at Riverside Elementary School has reversed a decision she announced this week to eliminate the school’s Halloween parade and celebration and the annual Valentine’s Day celebration after news of the changes resulted in an outcry from parents and community members.
Riverside Elementary School Principal Ebony Lattimer informed parents in an email Friday morning that the traditional holiday traditions will continue this year. Discussions will be held with families before a long-term decision is made, she wrote.
“I realize we’re still learning more about each other. Still, I hope your early takeaways will be that my top desires are to provide an effective learning environment inclusive of all of our students and that I will always listen and engage with the school community I serve. The Halloween parade has historically resulted in a few students opting out and staying home for religious or cultural reasons. Therefore, I was striving to create an option that every student could enjoy,” Lattimer wrote.
“From the feedback I have received, I realize that this will require a more profound discussion before we can make a firm decision,” Lattimer wrote. “Our school and district greatly value parent and family engagement in guiding decision-making. Therefore, we will continue with the traditional holiday activities for this school year and have school-wide discussions for potential changes in the future.”
On Sept. 21, Lattimer informed parents that the traditional Halloween parade and celebration and the annual Valentine’s Day celebration would be replaced to make the school more inclusive. Lattimer’s plan was to replace the Halloween celebration with a book bonanza day that would include a parade where students would be asked to dress up as their favorite book character and celebrate why this character is their favorite. Valentine’s Day would be replaced with an “Upstander Day” in February that would “highlight our students and the Riverside normative culture, as they display the upstander codes of respect, responsibility, safety, and positivity.”
Some parents expressed frustration that Lattimer made her decisions prior to discussing them with families. She also had the school’s longtime “River Bear” that greeted students in the lobby thrown out without consulting others. The decision to eliminate the traditional holiday celebrations generated more than 125 comments on Planet Princeton’s website and social media channels. On Friday morning, local radio station hosts had a field day with the topic.
Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley issued a statement about the Halloween issue just before noon on Friday.
“I applaud our Riverside Elementary principal, Ebony Lattimer, for proposing new and creative opportunities for learning and inclusivity to her school community,” Kelley wrote. “However, what’s always tricky as a leader is balancing your ideas with the decision-making process of engaging and involving the people you serve. Principal Lattimer’s handling of the school community’s response is commendable. She is not closing the door on the proposed options but pausing to have deeper discussions with Riverside families. Parent and family engagement are the fabric of Princeton Public Schools.”