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Parents aghast Melrose elementary schools won’t celebrate Halloween this year 

"A day that is merely about costumes and fun has turned political."

There will be no character parade for Melrose school children this year, like the one pictured at Williamstown Elementary School in 2019. Gillian Jones/The Berkshire Eagle via AP

Forget jack-o-lanterns, costumes, and candy, Melrose elementary schools will celebrate the season with broad fall-themed festivities to support the district’s mission of equity and inclusion.

On Monday, Melrose Superintendent Julie Kukenberger sent an email to parents saying that, over the past few years, school officials have been working to “deemphasize Halloween and shift our focus toward community building through fall celebrations,” The Boston Globe reported.

“As a district, we value celebrations and community-building activities that represent many cultures and traditions,” she wrote. “We are committed to ensuring that all students and staff feel safe, included, and represented in our schools.”

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Parents aren’t so sure about the change. A petition started by elementary school parent Carolyn Finocchiaro to “Keep Halloween for our kids” has already garnered over 1,200 signatures.

“Halloween, the term and the celebration, are being removed from the schools in Melrose,” she wrote. “A holiday and tradition that started out centuries ago, has now evolved into a modernized day of fun costumes, creepy decorations and lots of candy.”

Melrose Public Schools have decided the “term and celebration of Halloween in the schools…is no longer acceptable and non inclusive,” Finocchiaro wrote. “A day that is merely about costumes and fun has turned political.”

With Halloween this weekend, some parents told NBC10 Boston that many families and teachers are confused. Some kids are allowed to wear a costume, while others aren’t, and Finocchiaro said some teachers are being told to remove images of jack-o-lanterns and replace them with leaves.

“Especially following a pandemic, their lives were turned upside down and you’re choosing this year, the first year they’re back in school to take this away? For what purpose? I don’t understand,” parent Scarlett Rajbanshi told NBC10.

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According to the Globe, Kukenburger said each classroom will have “fall activities and crafts” for students to do together during the school day. 

“This past year has shown us how powerful it is when we come together to support one another as one community,” the letter said. “Our shift in focus during the school day does not change any of the city-wide festivities being planned in Melrose.”

After school activities won’t be impacted, Kuckenburger wrote.

“The big term is ‘inclusivity.’ I guess some kids were feeling left out of group costume ideas or maybe they didn’t have a costume. Things about religion have come up. But Halloween is such a benign, non-religious holiday that it doesn’t make much sense to me or many people,” Finocchiaro told WBZ. “Clearly the majority of Melrose is speaking up against it.”

According to NBC10, parents are planning a costume parade for Thursday outside Melrose High School to raise awareness.

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