NEWS: Schools in Milford, Connecticut, briefly altered planned Halloween activities, but festivities were never “banned” because some people were “offended.”
On 12 October 2015, the town of Milford, Connecticut, topped social media’s trending lists over what many news outlets inaccurately described as a “ban” on Halloween.
The Connecticut Post initially invoked the specter of treating people with respect gone amok as the purported reason for the district’s Halloween decision, suggesting unspecified parties were “offended” in some fashion by Halloween (although who those parties might be was left up to readers’ imaginationd). The paper reported that a petition was started to protest Milford Public Schools’ decision:
Those who signed the petition include Milford resident Heather Sharpe, whose children — now 15 and 20 — both participated in the Halloween parades when they were in grade school. “I now have nieces and nephews who won’t be able to experience that,” she said. “Everything has gotten to the point where everything has gotten so P.C. that kids are not allowed to have any fun any more.”
Jim Richetelli, chief operations officer for the Milford Public Schools, said he had “no direct knowledge” of the decisions about Halloween. But he said respecting the diversity of Milford’s student body is always a key concern. “Milford Public Schools do have many children from diverse beliefs, cultures and religions,” Richetelli said. “The goal is for all children to feel comfortable and definitely not alienated when they come to school.”
The local debate attracted national attention when web sites such as the National Review accused Milford of banning Halloween to placate the easily offended:
— Katherine Timpf (@KatTimpf) October 12, 2015
On 12 October 2015, Hartford news anchor Heidi Voight shared what was purportedly a letter (dated 9 October 2015 and signed by a teacher) sent to some parents about the decision. Voight also claimed Halloween had been “banned” in Milford schools:
On 12 October 2015, several news outlets reported that Milford Public Schools had reversed their decision (often in updates labeled “breaking”):
— WFSB Channel 3 (@WFSBnews) October 12, 2015
JUST IN: Milford school district says Halloween parades are back on. http://t.co/zaTTZDQf4k
— WTNH News 8 (@WTNH) October 12, 2015
Those updates were based on a letter to parents from Milford Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth E. Feser, which was dated 10 October 2015 [PDF, full text below]. In it, a clearly frustrated and unsettled Feser stated that the controversy was based on inflammatory and inaccurate information:
Sad to say, while careful and sensitive thought went into the decision to celebrate Halloween at a school/PTA-sponsored major event outside of the school day, there are those who unmercifully attacked the decision, falsely accusing the Milford Public Schools for banning Halloween. We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition, and that we should be ashamed. We struggle to understand why we should be ashamed about the Halloween celebration that each school/PTA is sponsoring, wherein children are encouraged to wear costumes, will be given candy, will spend an hour or more in fun and games. Our feeling is that the planned school/PTA event in each school is far more reflective of the values of the American culture in that “family” and “children” are being celebrated through a Halloween gathering.
There are those who feel a 20 minute parade is more important, however, and its elimination is contributing to the demise of Milford as a city and Milford as a community, as well as the demise of the Milford Public Schools. Those of you who have children in our elementary schools know how untrue these accusations are. You know the values of our building principals, their love of their children, their unwavering commitment to doing the best they can in serving them. The false accusations that have been made are irresponsible, and the antithesis of what we try to teach children.
Ultimately, Feser explained, Halloween was never “canceled” or “banned” by Milford Public Schools. The decision to switch from holding Halloween parades to observing a family night involved at least eight school principals and several PTAs and was based upon factors such as the ability of working parents to participate and the option for kids who didn’t want to celebrate Halloween to skip the festivities. The district capitulated and reinstated at-school parades but objected to claims they had banned or canceled Halloween observances.
The full text of Feser’s letter read as follows: