Happy…October 31st!

I (Cathy) was delighted by the dancing Jack-o-lanterns that greeted me this morning from my Google home page.  It captured the celebration of fall and harvest and only hinted at the October 31st celebration that haunts many Ontario schools now as they struggle with Halloween.    Last year many schools in the Niagara School Board (in southern Ontario) banned the celebration of Halloween.  This year, in an  Port Colborne elementary school, a memo was attached to the monthly calendar requesting  students wear orange and black clothing in favour of “a more inclusive Spirit Day.”

When North Ward School in Paris, Ontario banned any celebration of Halloween in the school this year, the parents were outraged and demanded to know why. The answers they were given varied,”it interferes with children’s learning”, “teachers don’t want to put make-up on 30 children.”   When the parents asked if they could set some rules in place like, “no make-up” and “only celebrate in the afternoon” the parents were directed to Wayne Baker, the superintendent of education at Grand Erie District School Board.  On Monday, 2 parents had a two hour meeting with Baker. In the end, the parents  were simply told that the situation was a human rights issue.  It was unfortunate that the parents  were not told this from the beginning.  It was also unfortunate that the parents were not included in  the decision making process.   That’s what parent councils are for-  to be inclusive of and serve the community.

I asked a young mother yesterday (from the Halton School Board in Ontario) if her children were dressing up at school.  She smiled and answered, “Yes, but we have rules now.  No fake blood, no make up, no masks and no fake weapons.”

These rules made sense to me.  I understand that parents may want their children to celebrate the same special occasions that they did as a child.  But our society is changing and sensitivity and understanding will be needed on both sides of the Halloween fence as we adapt, especially in our schools.

On a personal note, my house is decorated, cupcakes are made for the local children (who know me) and the big basket of (my favourite) potato chips is at  the front door waiting for the  little trick-or-treaters who still celebrate- after school that is.

Happy Halloween if you celebrate. If you don’t, have a wonderful fall day!

About Dr. Cathy Miyata

Cathy Miyata is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is also an acclaimed storyteller and writer. She has performed and lectured in Serbia, Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Mexico, the United States, Egypt, and across Canada

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