Halloween celebrations change across Evanston

Avi Shapira, Staff Writer

In the weeks that led up to Halloween, kids across Evanston were anxiously waiting for the day they could put on their costumes and trick-or-treat in their neighborhood. This year, however, Halloween festivities didn’t begin until after the school day ended.

During the 2018-2019 school year, officials at Lincoln Elementary announced that for the 2019-2020 year, the school will cease all celebration of Halloween traditions during the school day. 

That meant no costumes would be worn or candy consumed, as Oct. 31st was treated as any other normal school day.

Though school officials intentionally announced that plan a year in advance, it was still fresh in the minds of students and parents alike. Many parents in the community were torn between whether or not they agreed with the Halloween decision.

Joey Hailpern, principal of Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park and father of four District 65 students, strongly supported the decision to end the celebration of Halloween in school.

“As a parent I just want my kids to go to school, be safe, happy, and learn with their peers,” Hailpern said.

Hailpern explained that although many parents felt this was a decision that was assaulting their kid’s school experience they “need to gather some perspective on what privilege is.”

“Schools can educate people on cultures, religions, holidays and politics without embracing positions on them,” Hailpern said. “Many people in our community do not celebrate Halloween. Some are particularly put off by the school taking a position to create an environment that is hostile to their family.”

Michelle Cooney, Lincoln’s school principal, released a statement explaining the policy change.

“As part of our school and district-wide commitment to equity, we are focused on building community and creating inclusive, welcoming environments for all,” Cooney wrote. “While we recognize that Halloween is a fun tradition for many families, it is not a holiday that is celebrated by all members of our school community and for various reasons.”

The decision made by Lincoln Elementary led to a uniform ban on the celebration of Halloween in school across District 65. Those decisions were rooted in the values of equity and inclusivity, two values District 65 strives to promote in their schools, according to the district’s “Commitment to Equity” statement.

Hailpern agrees with this sentiment as he believes elementary schools should be “keeping school about culture and community around learning, about relationships, and not specific holidays, and politics.”