On this Halloween night a costume mix up left sisters in tears when they showed up to school wearing face paint and a headband and school officials say even that was too much.
No costumes allowed: that's what one Stamford elementary school told parents, and one frustrated mom said the details and extent of that policy weren't clearly communicated to parents back home.
Danielle Quilligan’s two daughters, a third-grader and kindergartner, went to school today at the Julia A. Stark Elementary School with cat whiskers painted on their cheeks.
Quilligan said a school Parent Faculty Organization e-blast sent out last week said that costumes were not allowed, so she dressed her girls in regular clothes. The e-blast made no mention of face paint. Her third-grader, Taylor, wore a cat-ear headband, because teachers told her that was allowed, Quilligan said.
But it wasn’t allowed. Quilligan said she got a call from the school principal, Dr. Mark Bonasera, on Wednesday morning saying he was washing the makeup off her daughters’ faces because it was “distracting” and against school policy. When she asked why, Bonasera told her testing scores had been down and that students needed to stay focused, Quilligan said.
“He said they honestly couldn’t waste time today on any sort of celebration,” she said.
Quilligan was upset.
“I didn’t see a harm in sending a kindergartner to school with whiskers,” she said, adding that, instead, Halloween can help promote learning. She said her youngest daughter, Kaitlyn, came home crying after the whiskers were removed.
Quilligan and her family are originally from Tuscon, Ariz. and have been living in Stamford for two years. She said her daughters’ former school held a literacy parade every year on Halloween, and that students were encouraged to dress up as characters from their favorite books.
"I'm completely supportive of school safety and I can understand not sending children in large dresses that they can trip on or costumes that can be distracting with masks," Quilligan said.
In an email to third-grade teacher Nicole Faubel, Quilligan wrote:
“I did not feel that regular clothes and sneakers defied the school definition of "costume" and did not feel headbands and whiskers would be distracting. I am very concerned that the right information is not being communicated to parents. … To be honest with you, I am very outraged at this moment. I am angry that there is little communication from the school regarding costume guidelines other than a single line on the PFO eblast last week which could be easily overlooked.”
The e-blast, sent Oct. 20, includes a one-line advisory about Halloween costumes.
“Though classes will also have fun activities on Halloween, we ask that students do not wear costumes to school,” the e-blast reads.
Bonasera and Stamford Public Schools Public Affairs Officer Sharon Beatle released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
“In an effort to keep the focus on learning, a decision was made last year at the Stark School to request of families that no students wear costumes on Halloween. Alternative celebrations were planned. We contacted the parents of two students to ask that they wash their faces and they complied.”
Quilligan said students at the Stark School dress up for school Spirit Week every year and said doesn’t see the difference between Spirit Week costumes and Halloween costumes.
"They're five, they haven't even learned all their letters yet,” she said. “Just let them have a little bit of fun in school."