The great costume debate: Is this really just a power struggle?
I got the chance to connect to my email after several hours offline at a cross country meet, alone with my nine-year-old son. I read the comment on the Halloween costume post that quoted a memo the Buckman principal sent to families:
"As you know, we have requested students not to wear costumes to school on Monday for Halloween. The reasons have been expressed in several ways, most recently in a letter sent out on October 20th. Since this issue was picked up by various “media sources” all over the country, we have received many disturbing emails, phone calls, and countless blog entries. Many of these were threatening in nature and completely inappropriate. I do believe that the majority, however not all, were from outside of our community.
"I wanted you to know I have met with the District and we will have our School Resource Officer here Friday and Monday to help in case we have problems with those outside of our school community. Our number one concern is the safety of our students, families, and staff. Please do not be alarmed if you see this extra security on these two days."
I said something incredulous aloud. (Probably: "oh, my GOD.") "What?" asked Everett. I gave a basic rundown of the issues: an administrator made a decision to ban costumes. His expressed aim was to reduce the pressure on the small number of students who didn't celebrate Halloween, and to remove distractions from school.
"So..." I said. "He didn't want kids distracted by wearing costumes. But now because people are so angry about his decision, the entire school community is going to be subjected to security in the halls because of threats from around the country. And there will be TV cameras and radio microphones outside school. A little distracting, don't you think?" [Update: there will be armed police officers at the school.]
"Why doesn't he just change his mind?" said Everett. Indeed.
Even though the pressure and criticism may be mostly external, it seems that the principles are now being largely obliterated by the stand the administration is taking. Is it worth it? In my opinion, no.
Talking it out with Everett made me see what I think the issue has become: not cultural sensitivity. Not the protection of childhood fun. This is about power. The principal who made the decision is not backing down, even though the debate now smacks more of circus than education. I don't think all our kids' best interests are preserved by protecting a few students who don't celebrate Halloween from awkwardness -- not now that it has become such a huge debate.
Keep Portland weird. Consequences be damned.
[Note: I edited the end of this post because it was initially hard to understand. Sorry; I didn't want to get a debate going all over again for a badly-written sentence or three.]