Parents, reportedly including Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, gathered in front of the school wearing witch hats earlier this week gathering signatures on a pro-costume petition which they say now runs to over 250 names.
Buckman Principal Brian Anderson broke the no-costume news to parents in a letter last week. The note argues for replacing the spooky spirit of Halloween with the spirit of equity:
For many reasons, the celebration of Halloween at school can lead to student exclusion. There are social, financial and cultural differences among our families that we must respect. The spirit of equity has led most PPS (Portland Public Schools) schools, including most elementary schools, to deemphasize the celebration of Halloween at school.
One angry parent, Shannon Brazil, blogged her reaction: "This country’s obsession with the politically correct is really getting out of hand."
Dwight Reid is another parent who signed the petition—his third grader and fifth grader dressed up last year as a Hogwarts student and Ghostbuster. "I have no problem keeping away the sugary treats, but you have to remember that this is an arts focused school. It attracts a certain kind of parent who is really into their kids being creative and dressing up," says Reid.
So will the school actually send home kids who show up in costumes, as parents worry? I've got a call in to the principal's office to find out.
Update 1:33 PM—Principal Brian Anderson responds by clarifying that this is the second year that Buckman has banned costumes and parties with sugary treats. Anderson says the school site council, school PTA, and 90 percent of the staff agreed that Buckman shouldn't be having Halloween at school because it excludes kids.
"We're pushing our traditions on an ever-changing population," says Anderson. "I used to work at Kelly Elementary [at SE 92nd and Foster] and the school was 40 percent Russian. The Russian kids wouldn't come to school that day because people were dressing up and celebrating Halloween. Halloween is, in many ways, personal to some people and to other people it's very offensive."
Instead, the school will be celebrating a "Harvest Festival" during school on Monday, October 31, when teachers are encouraged to host some sort of fall party with pumpkin carving and the like. If kids do show up in costumes that violate the Portland Public Schools dress code, says Anderson, the school will phone their parents to either bring them new clothes or give them something different to wear.