Halloween parades the Milford school district initially planned not to host this year have been reinstated after school leaders faced opposition from parents who started a petition calling for the district to reverse its decision.
"The Principals and I are about educating our children. With this in mind, knowing that the issue of Halloween is detracting from what we are truly about, and our time with our children around teaching and learning is most important, we have decided to reverse our decision," Milford Superintendent Elizabeth E. Feser said in a letter sent home to parents on behalf of her, Milford Asst. Superintendent Jeffrey Burt and the elementary school principals.
The announcement about reversing the district's decision not to hold the Halloween parades comes after Feser said parents spread "disturbing" untruths about the reasoning behind the decisions about celebrating Halloween in the schools.
A parent started a Change.org petition asking the Milford Board of Education to reverse its decision. Nearly 1,600 people had signed the online petition as of Monday afternoon.
The Halloween parades have traditionally been held at the kindergarten to second grade schools, not at the third- to fifth-grade schools, she said, so when the district was restructured to house pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, school officials decided to have Halloween celebrations that "would be includive of all children, would involve parents, and perhaps the larger community" and "engage children in games, activities and more," Feser said. She said schools in the district had success with that in the past, so the district made the decision to "forego the 20 minute parade in school."
Incidents in which children were excluded from Halloween activities due to religion or cultural beliefs in the past was also a factor in the decision not to hold the parades, according to a letter to parents from Rosemarie Marzinotto, principal at Live Oaks School.
"Any type of classroom activity will be decided by the teacher and must be Fall themed, not Halloween, and food is not an option," Marzinotto had previously said in the initial letter to parents.
The policy referenced had applied all elementary schools in Milford, she said. The PTA had planned to sponsor a trunk or treat night instead where students will be allowed to wear costumes, according to Marzinotto.
Feser said "the thinking behind this decision was that a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.
"Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part, could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event. In addition, in recognition of many working parents who have difficulty leaving work to come to school, an evening event would allow them to be present with their children," she said. "Finally, for children who may not have a costume to wear at school, a family evening event that centered on fun and games, and not on one’s costume, seemed far more appropriate."
But Feser said people "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," Feser said. "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."
However, Milford schools reversed the decision not to have the parades in an effort to move on because the Halloween controversy is "detracting from what we are truly about," Feser said.
"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," Feser said. "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."
The Halloween parade will be held Friday, Oct. 30 from 8:45 to 9:05 a.m. for early start schools and 9:15 to 9:35 a.m. for late start schools, Feser said. School principals will send parents further information on parade routes, costume rules and any other details, she said.
The PTA Halloween events will still go on as planned, she said.
"We wish to thank the PTAs for their incredible investment in the family Halloween events that have been or are being planned for each of the schools. Your time and careful planning are so valued – and will guarantee a wonderful experience for every child in attendance," Feser said.