WRDSB insists they're not cancelling Halloween, cite 'mixed messaging' as issue
As a petition circulates to try to change their stance, Waterloo Region’s public school board is insisting they’re not cancelling Halloween.
During a Monday night trustees meeting, the director of education for Waterloo Region District School Board addressed what he called “mixed messaging” regarding their approach to how they’re handling the holiday.
Last week, a board official told CTV News that schools had been advised to avoid decorations, costume days, handing out treats, and other Halloween traditions because of public health recommendations as well as equity and poverty considerations.
“This is not different from what we said last year,” a statement from the official reads in part.
The statement also provided public health tips for those who do choose to dress up.
"It's unfortunate that the pandemic is being used as an excuse to do things that divides the community and this needs to stop," school board trustee Mike Ramsay said on Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson from WRDSB issued another statement.
“Sharing of traditions and class-based learning activities are fine. School wide practices including alternative ways to mark the day such as Black and Orange day is fine,” the statement said in part.
“We’re not planning to withdraw, we have clarified what we mean, and now I’m also on record saying there are no plans to cancel Halloween,” said jeewan chanicka, the Director of Education for WRDSB, at last night’s meeting.
chanicka adds that many families do not send their children to school on Halloween because it is not in line with their beliefs.
“We also recognize for some students it can be quite a harmful day on more than one level, and often times those families are scared to say how they’re feeling,” he said. “Some families that we know are making choices to go without food so that they can purchase a costume for their child.”
For Grade 12 student Michelle Brooks, the policy means she won't be dressing up with her friends for Halloween this year.
"I really wanted to be Arthur, so we were kind of working off of that," she said. "We had plans to hang out together, we were all going to dress up and just really embrace the holiday now that COVID is over and we can all get out together."
A petition started last week, asking that WRDSB reverse its cancellation of Halloween celebrations, has garnered over 3,300 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
"Costumes, celebrating, decorating. I'm not really sure what's left if you're not doing those things," said Cambridge mother of two Linzi Schmidt, who created the petition. "I would love for the WRDSB to give school members, parents and families the chance to show them that this can be an inclusive holiday, that we can do right and make up for the mistakes from the past."