Lafayette Elementary to forgo Halloween costumes this year, causing a stir among parents

The kids at Lafayette Elementary in West Seattle will have to wait until school ends on Halloween to make their transformations into Superman, SpongeBob and other manifestations of the holiday’s costume tradition.

The decision made by Lafayette staff has caused uproar for some parents, while others support it.

According to Teresa Wippel with Seattle Public Schools, the decision is up to individual schools, and Lafayette staff made the decision at a staff meeting during the week of Oct. 8.

“Staff suggested that since Halloween falls this year on a half day of school, the school not allow costumes,” Wippel wrote in an email. “It takes students a while to change into their costumes, and students are distracted, taking away from an already limited instructional time.”

Wippel said while the decision was based on the constrictions of a half day, cultural issues surrounding Halloween were also discussed and will be discussed further to determine a policy for the holiday moving forward.

Those cultural issues have become the focal point for debate among parents. It comes down to families who are not comfortable with celebrating Halloween, a holiday that some believe stands in conflict with their religious or cultural beliefs.

Ken Allen, a parent with a child attending Lafayette, sent a letter to Seattle Public Schools and city-wide media on Oct. 15 in protest of the decision. Allen said a vice principal told him “It may offend other cultures and the religious beliefs of a few students.”

"I would be the first to stand up and say it is not right to make a child dress up in a costume at school, sing a song about pumpkins and ghosts while eating candy corn if it were against his/her cultural or religious belief,” Allen wrote. “To be very clear this is not what’s happening, the potentially offended students just mentioned, in previous years were able to bow out of any celebration that is against their belief without any infraction or punishment administered by the school. Thus allowing both cultures to celebrate or in this case not celebrate a rich, extremely fun and socially rewarding tradition.”

In response to Allen’s email, Lafayette parent Cindy Hovanec wrote in favor of the school’s decision.

“It is truly unbelievable that adults feel it is more important for a child to dress in a Halloween costume to school than to have tolerance and respect of other people’s beliefs,” Hovanec wrote. “The school’s job is to protect the entire student body, not just the majority.”

Hovanec suggested Lafayette move toward having a “fall festival class party” in celebration of the season, rather than a Halloween party. By removing the symbolic references to Halloween (witches, ghosts and the like), she believes it can become a celebration all families and students can get behind.

“Does a cupcake with a witch on it taste better than one with a pumpkin?” she asked.

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