This past Friday, Evanston made headlines in the Chicago Tribune because Evanston/Skokie School District 65's Lincoln Elementary School decided to no longer celebrate Halloween at school.
The school had apprised parents of this change a year ago, but as Halloween draws near, the issue is being hotly debated and discussed in various local Facebook groups.
The Tribune article was sorely one-sided, sharing only the voices of parents who are angry about the Halloween halt and furious about their children's disappointment at not being able to wear a costume to school.
Since at least 10 years ago, many schools around the country have stopped celebrating Halloween for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of the religious and economic inequities it poses: many families don't celebrate Halloween because of its origins in paganism that go against their religious sensibilities; and many families don't have the money (or time) to purchase costumes for their children at all.
In a school district--in a supposedly progressive community--where far too many families struggle to put food on the table, where PTAs are vastly unequally funded, and where the academic opportunity gap gapes, it's disturbing to see the furor about a school's decision to make this relatively small gesture toward offering a more inclusive and equitable environment for all its students.
Bottom line: if your family enjoys and celebrates Halloween, do it! Dress up, decorate your home, hand out candy, trick or treat. Do it in your neighborhood, in other neighborhoods, or at the local organizations that offer Halloween goodies for kids.
Think about donating costumes and candy to families who may not be able to afford the fun.
And even more importantly: get involved in local groups and organizations that work to make our schools more equitable for everyone. Here are just two suggestions: check out OPAL, which works to close the opportunity gap, or support the PEP - PTA Equity Project, a collaborative effort across the district to address disparities in PTA fundraising, which results in inequitable experience for our students.
Evanston resident Husayn Allmart put it succinctly in a Facebook post yesterday that I'm reposting here with permission (as he says, it's a bit of a generalization, but ...).
"I'm doing this in meme form because this furor is unbelievable. And I'm somewhat generalizing, but not by much. Think about how this looks to, and affects, families of color, LGBTQ kids, and families struggling to make ends meet. What do the conversations around Halloween-gate say about our community's priorities and who we care about?"
D65: Black and Brown children are vastly underperforming white kids.
D65: Immigrant kids are terrified because of targeted ICE raids and family separation.
D65: Some families don't have enough money to afford breakfast or warm clothes.
D65: Some schools aren't going to have Halloween parties.