PUYALLUP, Wash. – Scores of students ticked off by a ban on Halloween costumes and parties protested outside the Puyallup School District’s headquarters, dressing up as witches, wizards, skeletons and ghouls.
Kevin Roetger, 14, stood outside the district office Friday dressed as crooner Robert Goulet, sporting fake hair, a fake mustache and a portable microphone. He waved a sign that read, “Fight for the right to party.”
Roetger’s stepmother stood nearby dressed in black as a fallen angel. “This is a bunch of crap,” she said. “These kids work so hard and deserve a little fun.”
Earlier this month, the school district in this city south of Seattle announced that no Halloween festivities would be allowed, saying all the hoopla about costumes cut into precious class time and might offend believers in the Wiccan religion.
Between 150 and 200 students protested in front of the district office on Friday, police and school officials estimated.
Puyallup Superintendent Tony Apostle asked principals at the district’s 31 schools not to discipline any students for arriving in costumes or protesting.
Yet one student at Ballou Junior High who dressed as a witch was sent to the principal’s office. School officials later apologized to the student and her mother, district spokeswoman Karen Hansen said.
For the past six years, Puyallup has followed school board policies urging schools not to promote one tradition over another.
Two weeks ago, Apostle reiterated district policies, sending out an e-mail to principals to say no Halloween observances would be allowed during class time.
More than 400 parents and community members protested at a school board meeting, sparking the interest of national and international news media.
Apostle said critics have distorted the district’s intention, portraying school officials as killjoys. “We’re not anti-fun. I have pumpkins at home,” Apostle said. “We’re trying to protect instructional time. We believe in our hearts this is the right direction for us.”
School officials have said Wiccans who met with them did not ask for Halloween events to be canceled but said they are offended by images of witches with pointy noses flying on broomsticks.
Wiccans consider themselves witches, pagans or neo-pagans, and say their religion is based on respect for the Earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons.
Halloween is observed today as Samhain (SOW-een) by some pagans.
It grew out of the beliefs of the ancient Celts who considered the day to be the eve of the New Year and a night when the barriers between the living and the dead were uncertain, allowing ancestors to walk in this world. The Celts marked the day with a feast to welcome their departed kin.