Halloween controversy at Montgomery County schools

Published: 6:05 PM EDT Oct 09, 2013   Updated: 7:06 PM EDT Oct 09, 2013

Parents in the North Penn School District are talking about district policies regarding whether or not kids can celebrate Halloween at school.

The principal at Inglewood Elementary School sent a letter home with students Tuesday that read in part "The school district's policy directs all North Penn Schools to 'not' sponsor or support the celebration of Halloween Parades, Hallowee Parties, or dressing in Halloween costumes. We ask for your support in following the guidelines set forth by the North Penn School Board."

Parents with children at Inglewood had mixed emotions.

"It makes me feel heartbroken and devastated that my child is not being treated like a child. It's Halloween, it's a kids holiday," said Jodie Biegert, who has one child at Inglewood and two who have attended that school. "In the past, and I've been here a long, long time, we would have a mascarade parade in the morning and any child that wanted to participate could and if a child did not want to participate, they had Fall themed activities in the library."

Another parent, James Collins, Jr., said, "I didn't want the kids to feel deprived in missing out on a social activity that has nothing to do with academia."

He went on to say, "With respect to that, I have appreciation for the fact that Inglewood is pretty good and a lot of North Penn schools are pretty good about having additional social activities."

Cleris Christian has two children at Inglewood and was happy to see the letter. She told 69 News, "I said this is kind of like an answer to my prayers."

"Out religious beliefs kind of don't allow us to participate anyway so I was very glad," said Christian. "We would either have them stay home for the parade part or they would just sit in the school offices with some other children.

The North Penn School District released the following statement:

The Inglewood Elementary School letter addressing Halloween is not an accurate representation of the school district’s administrative regulation (Regulation 6119 below). Schools are permitted to have Halloween parties in their classrooms during the school day and school-wide activities such as parades are permitted before and after the school day. In fact Inglewood Elementary school will hold such a Fall Festival, with Halloween costumes and activities, on the evening of October 18th. Halloween and fall related activities being held at NPSD’s 18 schools include a Halloween dance, fall festivals, harvest festivals, trick or treating and more.
The regulation, which pertains to all holidays and cultural observations not just Halloween, was studied and reviewed by staff, parents and the Educational/Community/Policy Committee of the North Penn School District Board of School Directors before the changes were made this past spring. The administrative regulation is designed to preserve the greatest amount of instructional time possible for our students. As academic rigor increases for students and as state and federal expectations rise, we must continue to focus our time and resources on student achievement.
The regulation also provides guidelines on how cultural observances and religions are to be addressed instructionally during the school day. One of NPSD’s educational goals is to advance students’ knowledge and appreciation of the roles that religious and cultural heritage have played in the social historical development of our civilization. NPSD complies with the US Supreme Court ruling that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, the school communication inaccurately confuses the two issues. NPSD will continue to clarify the new regulation with staff, students, parents and community members.