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Posted at 9:22 AM ET, 10/31/2010

A real Halloween fright: Costume contracts

By Valerie Strauss

Halloween seems innocuous enough -- kids (and adults) dress up in costumes and trick or treat for candy. Americans like it so much that they spend about $7 billion on it a year, making it the country’s second most commercial holiday.

Yet Oct. 31 remains one of the calendar’s most controversial days, and plenty of schools forbid kids from marking it during school time.

Halloween has its roots in Samhaim, an ancient Celtic festival, and later in the Catholic Hallowmas period of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and the Roman festival of Feralia.

Some contemporary religious groups have adopted Halloween as their religious holiday, Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum, explains here.

But for most of the rest of us, Halloween is a secular holiday for dressing up, having fun and eating unreasonable amounts of candy.

That doesn’t stop many schools from refusing to allow Halloween fun.

Some schools say they don’t have time for Halloween frivolity. Others worry that Halloween has religious overtones and families that see negative religious images and messages in Halloween might get offended.

And then there are the schools that get semi-legal and threatening before allowing a kid dressed up as a ghost to walk through the doors: They set down a ton of rules and require parents and students to sign costume contracts.

Here’s a contract that Jeannette Jr. High School in Sterling Heights, Michigan, required its parents and students to sign (punctuation is from the original, not my addition):

Parent Agreement Form 2010

1. All students wearing costumes to school MUST read and understand the costume guidelines. In addition, they MUST sign the registration form provided by their FIRST HOUR teacher. They must also have this form signed by their parent and submitted to their first hour teacher by the Wednesday, October 27th deadline. If form is not submitted in a timely manner, then student is NOT allowed to dress up.

2. All costume preparations are to be completed at home. (No dressing or applying of make-up or colored hairspray once students arrive at school).

3. No masks are to be worn during the school day.


5. Costumes that promote the use of illegal substances or activities or are derogatory or disrespectful are NOT allowed.

6. Teachers may take away any accessory that is used improperly or is considered inappropriate for school.

7. School rules regarding the dress code must be followed.

8. Students who have questions about the acceptability of their costume should check with their FIRST HOUR teacher by Wednesday, October 27th.

9. Students wearing inappropriate costumes will be sent to the office to call home for a change of clothes, and/or may result in one or both of the following disciplinary consequences: Saturday school, Suspension.

10. Students who do not submit parent agreement form by the Wednesday, Oct. 27th deadline and still choose to wear a costume will also face disciplinary action as deemed appropriate by administration.

11. Costumes MUST be worn all day.


I have read and discussed with my child the Jeannette Jr. High School Halloween costume rules/guidelines. I understand that if my child violates any of the above rules, he/she will have earned Saturday school and/or suspension as a consequence. I also understand that this form must be signed and returned to my child’s 1st hour teacher, on or before Wednesday, October 27th.
(print student first and last name)
(student signature)
(print parent first and last name)
(parent signature)


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By Valerie Strauss  | October 31, 2010; 9:22 AM ET
Tags:  costumes, first amendment, halloween, halloween and schools, halloween costumes, history of halloween  
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It seems that the joys of childhood are just getting chipped away. I understand that some kids aren't allowed to celebrate for a number of reasons but school has gotten to be such drudgery that the two parties that the kids have each year--Halloween and Valentine's Day--seem more important than ever. We went through a few years with no Halloween celebration (we had a Harvest celebration instead). I'm glad we've gone back to it. We have a large immigrant population so some of the kids don't understand the festivities. We donate costumes for those who don't have them but still wish to participate. Those that are not allowed to participate are provided with an alternative activity in the library or computer lab where they also have some goodies.

Posted by: musiclady | October 31, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Well it seems that the witchhunt that started back in the days of Samhain (yes, it's not Samhaim) are still alive and well.

Remember... just because you no longer have the freedom to do what you want, it is still a free country. really...keep believing that.

I'm sure that there is a kid or parents in that school that would be offended. Making it another example of how we are throwing away our American culture to bend to the will of the few.

Wake up America. Halloween, Christmas... the way these are celebrated, is AMERICAN. Do not let your schools get rid of them because of some seemingly PC reason. If people want to be in America, they should follow American culture. It was wonderful to grow up with, and I hate to see it go away.

Posted by: rrmin437 | October 31, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

There is absolutely nothiing wrong with the school creating a mandatory policy like this; setting specific rules and guidelines. This day and age our culture thrives on getting around the "letter of the law" and you know you will have that unfortunate percentage who will do something inappropriate/dangerous without guidelines/parameters like this. Koodos to the principle and entire school administration for going through the trouble of setting/enforcing this policy and not just shutting downs costumes all together--frankly, i feel the editor took the wrong angle here

Posted by: Gibby10 | October 31, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Oh, for some middle ground......perhaps a few guidelines and a gentle reminder that children still need to have fun? The adults in our nation have no problem seeing to THEIR fun.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 31, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

This is the unfortunate result of a litigation society. Schools must present these contracts in order to protect themselves from any liability that may arise due to politically incorrect nonsense perpetuated by zealot religious types, especially.
And, since the public judges schools based on test scores, and politicians threaten to pull funding and/or close schools down based on test scores, the school has the right (and often the need) to not waste instructional time on the joys of childhood. While judging the school, hold up a mirror.

Posted by: Care1 | October 31, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

What interests me is the way this "holiday" has been usurped by adults. It is impossible to watch television and not see and hear adults celebrating as though they were the children. I suppose we all need something to take our mind away. For my fix, please visit my blog at

Posted by: dcproud1 | October 31, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

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