By Carmen Greger
Some schools have opted to axe the elementary school Halloween parades, which typically are an outdoor, family-welcome event where the Kindergarten through 5th graders proudly don their creative costumes, the HSA makes bank selling hot chocolate, school swag, soft pretzels and spooky homemade treats, and the parent paparazzi gathers eagerly around the youngsters ready to snap the perfect pic. Not this year. The school parades are cancelled, and many are up in arms, hair on end, spines rounded and ready to pounce like spooky black cats on mischief night.
The Halloween parades have always been a wonderfully festive Fall activity for parents and kids to celebrate and enjoy. The pandemic had put a dagger in the recent years’ spooktacular runway parades, but this year, although originally set to ‘return from the dead’, ‘poof’, it vanished, like the white rabbit from the magician’s hat, and with very little warning at all.
These times are undoubtedly different and for multiple reasons, but securing our children as a whole, includes providing the opportunity to experience and further cultivate a sense of joy, carpe’ diem enthusiasm, and a return to a healthy, safe state of simplicity, relaxed security, unheightened tension and grounding normalcy.
Due to ‘security and inclusivity’ purposes, the district has recently made the decision to halt only the outdoor portion of the parade, but maintains that the kids are still encouraged, if they feel so moved, to dress up in their ‘Halloween costume’ or in a costume that represents a part of who they are as an individual, and that the theme of the day would have more of a generalized and season oriented Fall Festival feel with bountiful autumnal pumpkin-related activities. The safety concerns stemmed from the understanding that the adults in attendance of the potential festivity could not all be properly screened at an outdoor event such as this, and the inclusivity sensitivity was based on the awareness that first, not all children and families celebrate Halloween (for various reasons), and for those who do, oftentimes the child’s parents work and it may present too much of a struggle for the working parent(s) to attend either for schedule related constraints and/or economic reasons, so that particular child whose parents were unable to be a part of the event would wind up feeling left out.
“I may be in the minority”, says a cheerful resident and homeroom mom, “but I don’t think I’ll miss the parade. I absolutely support celebrating Halloween at school and I’m happy the kids will be able to dress up and have their class parties. I just feel there’s so many great Halloween activities in our area (and my kids want to be a part of all them!); I have plenty of opportunities to both witness their Halloween excitement and to get great pictures of them, and don’t need to go stand out on the school field and watch them walk in a circle for another one. Letting them spend the day playing games with their teachers and friends still sounds like a fun and memorable day to me”.
I had the opportunity to speak with a previous district elementary school student, now a high schooler, who was eager to offer her thoughts on why the show simply must go on. She emphatically shared, ‘Children are having to sacrifice the opportunity to experience something they will never forget…. looking for their parents in the parade with their friends by their side as they all trot along the school grounds in their cute costumes. They deserve that: it’s a real shame they won’t be getting that this year’.
There does seem to be (and very unfortunately so) a recent uptick in the reporting and anecdotes of aggressive behavior and violence, and it is certainly admirable of, responsible of, and appropriate for the district to focus on both providing and protecting a safe environment for our children.
There is also a need for both addressing the problem at the root, perhaps by implementing anger and stress management in the schools and for families and residents in the community, and additionally for continuing to embrace and celebrate differences, and rather than immediately eliminating unharmful and joyful activities that may potentially exclude, instead, focus on enhancing programs that increase the overall variety of offerings for a comprehensively inclusive program, thus accentuating the positive, perpetuating the good, and generating more magical memories for all.
I reminisce back to when my children were in elementary school and the parades of their ghost and goblin, witch and wizard, superhero variety, villain & vampire friends, were positively one of the highlights, which I wouldn’t want any child or parent to miss. If we don’t collectively fix the current issues at hand and proactively prevent more, then what will the future hold for our youth?