North Penn School District clarifies 'no Halloween' notice

TOWAMENCIN TWP., Pa. - October 9, 2013

Parents received a letter Tuesday from the principal at Inglewood Elementary School.

The school is located in Towamencin Township, near Lansdale, and is part of the North Penn School District.

The letter, obtained by Action News and signed by the school's principal, Orlando Taylor, announced Taylor's decision not to hold Halloween parades or celebrations at the school this year.

It reads in part:

"Some holidays observed in the community that are considered by many to be secular (ex. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day) are viewed by others as having religious overtones. The district must always be mindful of the sensitivity of all the members of the community with regard to holidays and celebrations of a religious, cultural or secular nature. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs...."

The letter also cites school district policy "to not sponsor or support the celebration of Halloween parades, Halloween parities, or dressing in Halloween costumes," and concludes by asking for parents' support in following the school district guidelines.

But while it's not specified in the letter, a district spokesperson told Action News that the rule refers to classroom instruction, not parties, which she says can be held, but will no longer be district-wide.

"What's left up to the principals is parties, how many parties can be held during the school year, classroom parties," said the district's manager for community engagement, Christine Liberaski. "But parades, district-wide events, that is a district decision."

The district says the changes were made to maximize instruction time in the classroom, and that school-wide Halloween activities can take place before and after school hours.

Later Wednesday morning, the Inglewood Elementary School officials told Action News they do plan to have a fall festival celebration where kids can wear their Halloween costumes, but it's going to take place after school hours later on this month.

Parents we spoke with Wednesday morning shared their reactions to the principal's letter.

"I think it's a disgrace," said parent David Braun. "I can't even explain how infuriated I am with this. Now we're taking out Halloween. Even with the Pledge of Allegiance, that was up for debate because we mentioned God in it. When are people just going to stop and let schools be schools?"

Another outraged parent wrote, "Why deny our elementary school children this right of freedom of expression and celebration of American culture/traditions that most of us experienced in school? It is understandable that academics must come first. However, there should also be opportunities for students to have fun and get the chance to celebrate diversity as well as American traditions as opposed to stripping them all away."

But while some parents and children were clearly upset by the letter, the sentiment was not unanimous.

In fact, some we spoke with said they are pleased.

"We kept our kids home from school on that day because we didn't participate in it. And sometimes they would just sit in the office," said parent Cleris Christian.

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