School says no to Halloween, tells kids to celebrate “Wacky Hair Day” instead

Jeremy Shepherd - North Shore News

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Brothers Ben and Andrew Janetka get set to leave their costumes at home when they head to Seymour Heights Elementary on Halloween. The students’ father, John Janetka, recently criticized the school’s longstanding no-costume policy. photo Lisa King, North Shore News

A North Vancouver elementary school has gone a little mad this Halloween, according to one parent who wants to see ghouls back in schools.

Seymour Heights Elementary students left their costumes at home and celebrated Oct. 31 with Wacky Hair Day, much to the chagrin of parent John Janetka.

“They wanted to dress up,” he said of his two children. “Halloween’s probably one of their favourite celebrations of the year.”

Janetka acknowledged that some schools have ditched costumes over safety concerns or outfits that were racially insensitive. However, forbidding Halloween costumes takes away the chance to talk and learn.

“Most parents I talk to sort of roll their eyes at this,” he said. “You can start banning everything if you don’t want anybody to ever be upset about anything.”

Janetka’s views represent “one parent in the entire school district,” according to North Vancouver school district spokeswoman Nevasha Naidoo.

The school didn’t do away with costumes over safety, political, or religious concerns, according to Naidoo.

“This is what the parents wanted,” she said. “And everyone at school was happy with that.”
Students at Seymour Heights haven’t worn costumes to school in approximately a decade, according to Nadoo.

“It’s been a longstanding tradition at Seymour Heights Elementary to celebrate Halloween differently,” she said, adding the school has gathered about 200 pounds of food set to be donated to the Harvest Project.

Children haven’t been clamouring to wear their costumes to school, according to the school’s Parent Advisory Committee chairman Ken Bell.

“They don’t seem bothered by it. They’re excited about the idea of doing the crazy hair thing,” he said.

Parents have also been unconcerned, according to Bell.

“There hasn’t been any comment in the past about it.”

Bell suggested it can be more troublesome to allow costumes, noting some schools have sent out lists of acceptable and unacceptable costumes.

“That seems to get a lot of people even more upset,” he said. “It’s probably just simpler for schools to say: PJs and crazy hats.”

Bell also recounted another school’s effort to encourage racial sensitivity by banning students from changing their skin colour on Halloween. The result was a few less than convincing smurfs and aliens, he explained.

“I think the more rules you try to introduce, the more complicated it can sometimes get.”
It can also be difficult to engage very young children in a discussion about cultural appropriation, Bell said.

“I think schools have enough things that they’re trying to teach kids.”
Schools should be less prone to banning things, according to Janetka.

“It’s going nuts in the schools,” he said. “Kids dressed up (in the past) and you never saw any major problems.”

Throughout North Vancouver school district, replica weapons like knives or guns aren’t allowed, as are costumes deemed hyper-sexual or culturally insensitive.

Some West Vancouver schools have forbidden masks that cover a student’s entire face but do allow partial masks for students who want to be Zorro or Batman.

Lions Bay Community School doesn’t permit costume accessories and also limits the candy brought to school to three pieces following Halloween, according to school district spokeswoman Bev Pausche.

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