Maybe the executives at Fox should petition Bill O'Reilly for his trademark slogan “Culture Warrior.” Seriously, when was the last time the network didn't wring its hands over yet another perceived assault on Christmas? Or, for that matter, Easter? It didn't really matter whether there was any truth to Fox hosts' claims that there was indeed a “War on Christmas” or a “War on Easter.” The mere effrontery of “Happy Holidays” was enough for some to go into apoplectic shock; it even led co-host Gretchen Carlson to demand that Republican presidential candidates be asked what should be done about it.
The holiday season is still a full month away this year. But today, a Fox Nation headline read: “Schools Declare War on Halloween”:
The headline linked to a story by correspondent Todd Starnes, which reported:
Public schools across the country are cancelling Halloween celebrations over issues ranging from candy corn to concerns that Americans are forcing their holiday traditions on new immigrants and many parents are angered by what they are calling political correctness.
The principal at Buckman Elementary School in Portland, OR recently banned costumes at his school, calling instead for boys and girls to embrace a “spirit of equity.”
“For many reasons, the celebration of Halloween at school can lead to student exclusion,” Principal Brian Anderson wrote in a letter to parents. “There are social, financial and cultural differences among our families that we must respect.”
Anderson wrote that the “spirit of equity” has led most public schools in the city to “deemphasize the celebration of Halloween at school.”
The story went on to highlight a mother's derision for “the country's obsession with the politically correct.”
But as is clear from the links Starnes included in his article, this is stretching the truth.
The schools aren't keeping elementary-school children from celebrating Halloween; rather, they're prohibiting them from wearing costumes during the school day and doing away with parties and costume parades during the school day -- not scrapping them altogether. And the schools cite health and safety reasons, as well as “avoiding hurt feelings,” for the change. Indeed, parties will still be thrown after school, and children are free to wear their costumes then.
The Muskegon Chronicle reported:
For many children and their families, Halloween is as much about school parties and costume parades as traditional neighborhood trick or treating.
But schools are increasingly moving away from candy-laden classroom parties and parades that principals say can leave some children feeling scared, left out and unsafe.
Instead, elementary schools are moving toward celebrations focused on fall activities and healthy foods that the annual harvest brings.
[Edgewood Elementary Principal Amy Upham] said the influx of parents and other visitors in the school during the traditional parade worried her. Upham was concerned that strangers, or even parents without custody of their children, could seize on the opportunity to walk out with a child. Holton's [principal Carol] Dawson echoed that concern, saying it's hard for teachers to keep track of their students during parades when the children are disguised in costumes.
“On parade day, the doors are open and it's a flood of adults in here,” Upham said. “It's unfortunate, but we can't believe all people coming into our building are safe.”
Upham said severe food allergies also are becoming an increasing problem for children who could be harmed by party treats.
And she said every year, children suffer hurt feelings because they don't have costumes -- a problem that she said could get worst as parents struggle financially.
The article further reported:
Dawson said she had in mind the Muskegon County-wide initiative to improve healthy behavior, dubbed “One in 21,” when she decided to replaced Holton Elementary's costume parade this year with a fall festival.
The focus will be on healthy eating and exercise -- a theme that will encompass other holiday parties, Dawson said. For example, traditional Christmas parties will be replaced with a winter olympics and Valentine's Day will focus on keeping the heart healthy.
“We're trying to blaze a new trail to make our celebrations a focus on health and wellness,” Dawson said. “Schools are a model for a lot of things. Why wouldn't we try to be a model for healthy lifestyles?”
Students will be encouraged to dress in class colors on Halloween rather than costumes, Dawson said.
“This is a transition holiday for us,” Dawson said. “We didn't want to mandate no costumes, but we just wanted to show we're headed in a different direction.”
Dawson said parents have mostly been supportive, and students have embraced the idea of coming up with healthy snacks and activities.
Yes, that indeed sounds like schools are waging a “War on Halloween,” doesn't it? Telling kids to celebrate the occasion after school so as not to disrupt classroom time and offering healthy treats at school parties is monstrous! But we all know how Fox feels about encouraging healthy behavior among children.
Here's another thing to keep in mind, though. While Fox is busy defending this superficial slight against Halloween, Pat Robertson has blasted the occasion as “Satan's night.”
He said on his show:
ROBERTSON: We need the power of God, not some kind of ersatz entertainment. I mean, we don't believe in “haunted.” We don't believe in ghosts. We don't believe in all this business. Halloween is Satan's night. It's the night for the devil. [...] It's, you know, skeletons and all this, like the dead rising.