Light Wave

U.S. News

Halloween Canceled: NJ school district scraps celebrations to promote DEI

By CM Chaney · October 26, 2023

In brief…

  • New Jersey school district canceling Halloween celebrations over equity concerns
  • Based on principal survey; superintendent says promotes inclusion
  • Governor Murphy expressed disbelief: "Can't let kids celebrate Halloween?"
  • District says new policy ensures all can celebrate fall season
  • Some parents fondly recall school Halloween events, suggest alternatives
A New Jersey school district decided to cancel all Halloween celebrations in schools to promote diversity and inclusion, drawing mixed reactions from officials and parents.  Tomás Del Coro / Wikimedia

The South Orange and Maplewood School District (SOMSD) in New Jersey has decided to cancel all Halloween celebrations and prohibit students from wearing costumes in district schools.

The move aims to “promote diversity, equity and inclusion,” according to Superintendent Ronald Taylor.

In a letter to parents, Taylor said the decision was based on a survey of principals that asked if Halloween activities violate the dignity of some students culturally or religiously. Principals were said to be “overwhelmingly supportive” of suspending the holiday.

Deputy Superintendent Kevin Gilbert said canceling Halloween “takes a step closer to upholding our community’s access and equity values.”

The reactions reached New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who expressed disbelief, saying: “Seriously? We can’t let kids celebrate Halloween? Give me a break.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy expressed disbelief in the school district decision.  @GovMurphy / Twitter

District spokesman Paul Brubaker said the policy change “helps ensure that all students and families are able to join together in celebrating the fall season.”

But some parents disagreed.

Leslie Springer said she has fond memories of school Halloween parades and celebrations.

“As a parent, I really enjoyed, at the elementary school level, the kids would do a parade, and we would get to see them in costumes. So, that was really fun,” she said.

Catherine Porter said her graduated kids loved in-school Halloween events, suggesting costume donations rather than bans.

“Maybe there are kids who would like to dress up for Halloween and can’t, maybe people can pull some old costumes together and there could be a donation,” Porter said.

Officials said schools can partner with parent groups for off-hour events and hold fall harvest festivals on Oct. 31 during school.