When the parents of children at a Massachusetts elementary school received a certain letter from the principal, some were shocked at the message that it contained. Halloween was canceled – but not everyone thought the reason behind the bold decision was justified.
Yes, children at a school in Needham, Massachusetts, had a bit of a surprise in 2017, and for many of them it wasn’t the good kind of surprise. What happened at Needham Mitchell Elementary School was quite controversial, in fact, and indeed it caused something of a social media storm.
Over the years, many kids at Needham Mitchell Elementary School have enjoyed celebrating Halloween each autumn. Each class would usually hold a party, and all the children would come into school showing off their best Halloween outfits.
Yet while most of the pupils at the Needham school have loved the occasion, there are some parents who’ve disagreed with it. And that’s why Needham Mitchell Elementary decided to go about things a little differently in 2017. It’s a decision that has divided people for various reasons, however.
The issue was that some of the families of pupils at the school did not agree with celebrating Halloween, and as a result, they chose not to become involved in the festivities. So, when the big day came, the parents would hold their kids back from school while the other children celebrated.
In 2017 some of the teachers at the school therefore felt a little awkward about spending time planning the Halloween celebrations when they knew that some of the kids wouldn’t even be there to enjoy them. And because of that, the school’s principal, Gregory Bayse, decided to act.
Bayse felt that it would be appropriate to write a letter to all of the parents of his elementary pupils, and it was in this letter that he subsequently dropped a bombshell. Yes, the principal wrote something that proved to be controversial – and even upsetting for some of the recipients.
The letter stated that Halloween would no longer be celebrated at Needham Mitchell Elementary School. Knowing, however, that some of the kids would be disappointed by the decision, Bayse reiterated how important he felt it was to make all children feel included at school.
“I would agree that this represents a change, but I believe that in the long-term any change towards including all children is a positive change that will benefit our students and our community,” the principal wrote in his letter.
Among the parents, reactions were mixed, however. That much became clear when a reporter for ABC-affiliated local TV station WCVB-TV 5 headed down to the school. She asked a handful of parents and grandparents what they thought of the cancellation of Halloween – and the responses were by no means the same.
One grandmother, Patsy Leibensperger, informed WCVB-TV 5 News that she had always loved Halloween when she was at school – so she was disappointed for the Needham Elementary kids. “It makes me a little bit sad,” she told the reporter.
Another pupil’s father, Jon Cohan, agreed with Leibensperger. “It’s fun! I can’t see why people want to preclude kids from having fun and enjoying something that’s more cultural,” he said. “There’s no real religious significance to anything about Halloween. It’s just a thing where kids get candy.”
But when the news was shared on Facebook, the principal’s decision attracted much harsher criticism. One link to the report received a multitude of comments, most of which expressed disdain for the controversial move.
One frustrated Facebook user wrote, “I don’t see what the big deal is. If Halloween offends you then don’t participate. Problem solved! Let kids be kids!” Another user who was angered by the decision, meanwhile, placed the blame on an oversensitive modern society.
“There is nothing wrong with Halloween events,” Janice Spooner commented. “We have an event every year, and those who don’t celebrate are offered an alternative activity. What’s wrong is everyone’s feelings getting hurt every time someone else sneezes.”
Yet it seems that the parents of Needham Elementary were slightly more forgiving than those online commenters. “Our kids will probably miss it a little bit, but I totally get the reason why they did. To exclude anyone is not a good thing,” one understanding mom told WCVB-TV 5 News.
Meanwhile, another pupil’s father made the point that the holiday doesn’t need to be celebrated during school hours. “I don’t feel it’s really related to overall learning,” he said. “It’s important for kids to have fun, but it is a choice, per family. We definitely like to celebrate with our kids.”
Even a pupil who does normally celebrate Halloween told the reporter that it would be okay not to wear a costume to school in 2017. And when asked where she would wear the fancy dress costume instead, the young girl replied, simply, “At home.”
So, opinions may be mixed, and yet the principal’s decision was nonetheless final. There were no Halloween celebrations at Needham Mitchell Elementary School in 2017. Still, that’s not to say that there wasn’t a celebration of a different kind the week after Halloween instead.
On November 9, 2017, the school held a unique celebration of its own. Called “William Mitchell Day,” it was an event at which pupils and teachers were encouraged to join together in a celebration of the heritage of the school itself as well as “all things autumn.” Let’s hope it was enjoyed by all.