Sunday, October 16, 2011

No Halloween Party Allowed at School! (Due to Religious Reasons)

I spent yesterday morning working on Dear Son's Halloween costume. As you may recall, I love making costumes for Dear Son and especially love making costumes using his wheelchair as a prop to bring these costumes from ordinary to "over the top". Last year I wrote this post on how to use the wheelchair to make costumes for kids with special needs and showed you all of his costumes from past years.
Last year, Dear Son was a bed bug and this year's costume was destined to be the best and most creative one I've ever done. I even posted about it in January.

Part of the joy of creating these costumes, is talking about them with Dear Son. Dear Son doesn't speak and let's face it, he can't move much so often times he's lying in bed or sitting in the chair and I talk excitedly about how much fun Halloween will be when he's in his costume and how much everyone is going to like it. He's loves a party and he loves being the center of attention. It doesn't matter if it's his birthday party or whatever, he loves it when I tell him everyone will sing, "Happy Birthday" to him or when I tell him everyone will say, "Great costume Dear Son". He just loves it. When you have a child like Dear Son, 90% of the exitement is the "anticipation" of doing something. Unlike other kids, who are able to get around and do more things on their own or even with their families, these kids can't do anything unless someone helps them. One of my main concerns about his "Make a Wish Trip" was whether we'd ever get there. We talked about it for 5 months and then he got the swine flu the day before we were supposed to leave and was on a ventilator. He was in the hosptial for a month and then it took another 6 months to recover. I worried we'd never get there.
Yesterday was no different. I started construction on the costume and spent the better part of the morning cutting up boxes, taping them together and getting the foundation or structure of the costume together. I was hoping to get the prop part of the costume finished this week and then start on the clothing part next week after I knew what the colors would be of the prop. Since Halloween falls on a Monday this year, I decided to email his teacher to verify the date of the Halloween party since Dear Son only attends school on Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays due to his health. The doctor won't allow more days since Dear Son can't make it through the day. I was hoping I could get an exception from the doctor to attend school for Halloween and more importantly, I'd have to make bus arrangements one week in advance in order for them to transport him to school. I thought they might have the party on Friday or Monday and thought I should ask. After all, the whole purpose of this costume is for the party. It's not like we would go Trick or Treating. Dear Son has a feeding tube and can't eat by mouth.

Today, I received this response from his teacher:

"We are not having a Halloween party this year because of a religious conflict with another student in our class. We decided that we would have a fall harvest party (no costumes) and winter and spring holiday parties as the public schools do in order to respect those who do not celebrate the Christian Holidays. Sorry about this but we are obligated to remain sensitive to others' religious views. "

I must say I am quite surprised. In my entire life, I have never met anyone who talked about nor celebrated Halloween in any religious fashion. (My point is not that the religious issue isn't valid but more to the point, that in general, most people don't associate it in a religious context and even many Christian churches still allow Halloween parties.) Even if they had a fall harvest party with a costume, would that have been horrible? I mean, shouldn't the fun of all the kids be considered and couldn't they have done that while still being respectful of everyone? And what is typically done at these Halloween parties anyway? Isn't it just food, music, dancing, dressing up in costumes and having a few good laughs while listening to Monster Mash? That's what they did last year and the kids had a great time.

Overall, I am a bit annoyed. As a mother of a special needs child, Halloween isn't always easy. It's hard finding costumes for your kids when they can't do the things other kids can do. It's not easy when they can't walk taking them out for, "Trick or Treating". I can remember many years we never went out Trick or Treating because Dear Son wasn't feeling well or it just didn't make sense to take a disabled kid out in cold, rainy weather to go Trick or Treating when he couldn't eat the candy nor even say, "Trick or Treat". In fact, when Dear Son was growing up, there was only one year I ever took him out in the neighborhood for Halloween. It was the year, he was the Cat in the Hat. I finally got over worrying about what people would think since he couldn't say, "Trick or Treat" or walk and took him out in his wheelchair. I hooked up his communication device to the foot rest on his wheelchair and programmed in my voice to say, "Trick or Treat". Then I had to train him and tell him that we were going Trick or Treating and telling him that he should push the button with his foot (his left foot was the easiest way for him to operate the communication device since he didn't have any use of his arms/hands) to say, "Trick or Treat" and then people would put candy in his pumpkin. I had to get a special hook for his wheelchair to hold the pumpkin since he couldn't hold it and I couldn't push the wheelchair and hold it. We had a ball. Of course, it wasn't easy. He'd hit the button with his foot when we were between houses and then when we'd get to the door, I'd tell him to say, "Trick or Treat" and hit the button and he wouldn't, lol. We did this through the neighborhood. When people would see him, they would comment on how cute he was and he would smile. He loved all of the attention. Then they would put a million pieces of candy in his bucket. I would tell them he couldn't eat it but I swear, most people would put a giant handful of all kinds of candy in his bucket. That was then.

And now, we can't have a Halloween Party because of religious reasons. Really?

Note: Dear Son is nineteen years old and suffers from seizures, dytonia and severe developmental delay as a result of a random mutation of the ARX gene. In addition, he suffers from a progressive neurological disorder.


Anonymous said...

I would mass email all the parents and suggest a costumed get together. I'd talk the principal and send this article. Let them end class eraly fitpr an optional dress up event in the library, etc. I'd be soooo mad. Killing Chrstmas sucks too.

Dream Mom said...

Great idea...I don't have a wheelchair van however so I wouldn't be able to provide our own transportation after that. Many parents of disabled children rely on the school bus for transportation and if the school were to end early for a party, most likely they wouldn't allow bus service.

Thanks for your support.

Lexie said...

Oh honey... Its a new world out there... why in our town here in Whinyentitledton, NY, there has been an uproar in one elementary school, concerning, the school's "wellness policy" and the advisability of the children being allowed to have CUPCAKES at a dozen or so annual school birthday parties... after all, so many of our children are now diabetics, victims of celiac disease, obesity, and allergies, to milk, eggs, and Betty Crocker... it is imperative to...

well, keep them from being children, is all I can think of.

my sympathies to you and your beautiful son and all of our children who are victims of cruel, heartless, soulless, idiotic adults.

but its a losing battle... oh, it is...

best ~ Lexie

PS: I hope that your mom is doing better now... praying for her.

Anonymous said...

legally speaking, this is ridiculous. I suppose a private school can do whatever it wants, but i would band with other parents to demand a meeting with the principal and as many staff as possible. I would request a detailed explanation as to how this holiday is "religious" and the nature of the rights that are allegedly being violated. I would ask them to call in the other family to explain that other kids are being deprived of a precious joy. The school is perfectly free to state that this is not a religious holiday. Perhaps the other family's child should stay home that day as there is no religion involved. Ask them to name the church or synagogue that worships Halloween? The tiny number of WICCAN's, maybe? As has become the norm, their response indicates no actual reasoning taking place. I would also solicit local media to call the school for an explanation of the religion involved, and you might call the ACLU to determine the soundness of the school's argument. What nonsense. At a minimum, you can try to negotiate for a last Halloween party before their "ban" takes place.

Kristin said...

I'm so very sorry. I am what most consider a conservative Christian and have had to make a choice regarding Halloween. Our family has decided that we will celebrate and have no conflict.

I asked a friend who has chose not to celebrate Halloween base on her religious beliefs what she would do if her children were in public school (they currently homeschool)

She said "I would pull them out of school the day of the party and do something fun that day. I would expect the school excuse my children on the basis of our religion. I would never expect a party to be cancelled based on my beliefs.

I'm sorry

Dream Mom said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and support.
Lexie-You are so right; it seems like they are taking the fun out of being children! Thank you for your prayers for my Mom. It means a lot.
Anon-Thank you for all of the good advice and for your email.
Kristin-I think your solution is a nice way to meet everyone's needs and I appreciate your thoughts.

Overall, it is such a huge disappointment not being able to dress up. At our home, I don't have any Halloween decorations so it's not like I even celebrate the holiday but all I wanted was to celebrate my kid by dressing him up and having some fun. I appreciate everyones support.

Catherine said...

It's a small part of a big issue at many public schools in this country. If anyone complains of any religious issues of anything that is mainstream religion, it often gets removed. No Christmas carols, no mention of Christmas, Easter, as if these holidays don't exist. In its place, other holidays of less mainstream religions are often "celebrated". It makes no sense to me either.

It was not the reason why we put our kids in private schools at great expense to us, but it was like fresh air to find such restrictions were not there in the schools we chose for them.

chrissyrivera said...

I found an article in that reminded me of your post!

Hope you enjoy!

Anonymous said...

We have three special needs kids on our small street and we have a great system going on Halloween. We have a potluck dinner in the cul-de-sac or a garage with everyone before we go out. It's a chance for those children who don't trick or treat to put on their costumes and be apart of the excitement of the evening. Plus it let's us gather age-appropriate groups together before setting out - we usually send out a big and little group.

Usually the dads takes the kids and then the moms/grandmoms/whoever else hang out together in a group at the front of the cul-de-sac as a group and at least two of the children who don't trick r treat hang out too to help give candy.

It's a fantastic plan, your kid gets dinner and sent out with friends or they get to stay with parents and give out candy. And you get company for the evening, so much better than sitting at home alone giving out candy, getting up every time the doorbell rings. We sit in lawn chairs and the kids just come down our row, assembly line style.

At the end of the night if we have leftover candy, we split it up so everyone gets different stuff. I swear, I love my street.

So I was surprised this year when a new family on our street very stiffly declined our pre-trick or treat party. Turns out they are Jewish and believe Halloween's Christian roots are offensive to them.

Totally blindsided me. I have very conservative Christian friends who go to a church event that night but I had no idea that people felt the opposite way too.

So it's too un-Christian for some, too-Christian for others? LOL, I can't win!

Dream Mom said...

Catherine-You are correct, sometimes it seems like the norm. I guess the old, "majority rules" has been replaced with "anyone who has an objection" and it's changed for everyone.


Anon-Sounds like you have a great group of neighbors. What fun. I get that there are some people who may feel differently, however sometimes it seems today like everything has gone a bit too far.

I am just a simple Mom who loves creating a great costume to have a little bit of fun with my child who isn't able to do a whole lot. This whole thing has me so upset; I have a child who can't speak, can't walk, can't talk, can't move, needs help with every aspect of daily living and is medically fragile. Life isn't very easy trying to take care of him, get by on very little sleep night after night, give meds every six hours...yada, yada, yada. I try not to complain but life is pretty hard and I work on top of that. I just want to create a little fun for him by making a costume, talking to him about how much fun it will be, take a few pictures and let him go to a party at school. And for that, I have to fight against the system, to protect my son's right for one or two hours of fun. Heck, I don't even decorate for Halloween! I live in a apartment and there aren't any Trick or Treaters so that isn't even an option. What else will they take away next?

motherof5boys1girl said...

that is LOUSY. and i am new to the whole "special needs" world..unfortunately, we dont know why our little boy is like he is. he is deaf,has moderate MR, and he cant eat solid foods and has a feeding tube. well, he CAN, but he never has and does not understand how to chew. i dont know what to do about halloween because he cant eat candy, and cant talk and hates going places. :( :( :( anyways *sorry for rambling* i would press the issue because the time for the majority to bend to the whims of the minority should be done and over with! what a wet blanket this person must be!

Anonymous said...

Our school has a story book parade close to Halloween during celebrate reading week. They each dress up as a favorite storybook character and go on a parade with their favorite book. That way, the kids get to dress up and have fun and none of this other nonsense can get in the way. And there are books about everything so you don't have to look too hard to find one to match a favorite costume. No party is involved, but the kids paraded through the hallway to literal hoards of proud parents. And the special needs class paraded too and they were absolutely adorable and looked like they were having a fantasitc time!

Anonymous said...

I actually have a couple of friends who are very conservative Christians who don't participate in Halloween because of its pagan roots and because they believe that Halloween celebrates dark spirits/dark angels/etc.

Wow, though, I've never heard anyone complaining that it is too Christian in origin! Interesting. True, it's originally linked to All Saints Day/All Hallows Day/All Souls Day, celebrated on November 1, which is a traditional Catholic/Christian holiday to honor everyone who;s been sainted, but I don't know of many people who consider modern Halloween celebrations to be religious or spiritual.

Eileen said...

Oh dear - what would these people do if they lived in the most Roman Catholic country in the world? Here in Italy there are many traditions which are still carried out at various times over the winter and spring period - and almost all of them originate, like Halloween, from pagan rituals dating from well before Christianity.

Even Christmas and Easter are adaptations of pagan festivals - good idea to keep the locals onside when converting them - and all the other so-called religious festivals have some darker aspect associated with them.

I get quite annoyed (being very calm and restrained here) at people who assume everyone should conform to their personal worldview. They don't have to go if they don't like it. They could stay at home and pray for your souls - just as the original Christian version of All Hallow's Eve was meant to be.

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