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An Illinois school district is banning Halloween this year in what the superintendent says is an effort to address low test scores and avoid cultural and religious conflict.

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"There will be no costumes, no candy bags, no parties," District 69 superintendent Quintin Shepherd told the Skokie Patch.

But parents aren't pleased — and not just because they'll be dealing with disappointed kids. Shepherd made the decision in early October without allowing parents to weigh in, saying that asking the community for input would have been a waste of time.

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"We knew what their response would be," he said. "We know they would feel strongly [about banning Halloween in the school district]. So, the reason we didn't go forward with the community hearings is because we knew they would be upset."

Instead, he sent out a letter saying that the decision had been made.

Read on to find out what Mr. Shepherd's letter said and how parents reacted.

"District 69 has made the decision not to celebrate Halloween this year. This decision was not made lightly, and many factors (including economic, social, and religious) were considered. Many students cannot afford costumes, and there is an economic disparity. We also have students that are unable to participate for religious or cultural reasons. In the past, these students have had to sit in another room and participate in an alternative activity. Every year the number of students that cannot participate grows. Our staff and administration feel very strongly that we never want students to feel uncomfortable while in school, and this celebration makes many uncomfortable." (You can read the entire letter here.)

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Shepherd said that he'd been mulling over a ban for the last three years. Some families felt uncomfortable about their kids celebrating Halloween at school because of religious and cultural issues, he explained; others felt that the parties were a financial burden.

Teachers and administrators "noticed more students were unable to participate in Halloween activities, and they asked me if there was something we could do to try to address it," he added.

"This is a cultural sensitivity thing for us, also, sort of religious cultural," he told the Niles Patch. "There are some that don't allow for the celebration of Halloween as part of the background."

But angry parents have pointed out that there are plenty of ways to have an all-inclusive celebration without offending anybody. One parent launched a petition on Change.org calling on Shepherd to reconsider.

"While respecting different cultures is very important, many of our children look forward to the Costume Parade and parties," Shaun Saville wrote. "It is unfair to the majority of families who do celebrate Halloween to cancel all school festivities with no discussion or input from anyone other than those who don't celebrate it."

"I feel the decision to cancel all Halloween celebrations was an extreme solution for a small problem," Skokie resident Lynda Meyer commented. "If some children cannot afford a costume, then the Halloween celebration at school may be the only way they celebrate. I would be willing to donate all of my children's costumes from previous years. Also I would be willing to donate money to invest in some red capes that could be used as costumes and perhaps also used at Super Hawk assemblies."

"Why not make it a celebration in which all can participate?" asked Saville. "There are other communities as diverse as Skokie and they find a way to respect ALL cultures."

Other districts in Skokie will still be holding their Halloween parties, but the seven-member board of District 69 backed the ban after Shepherd raised concerns about his schools' test scores. Shepherd insists that the scores, and the fact that attendance seems to drop on Halloween, made the ban worthwhile.

"No, I do not think we are being too politically correct," he said. "I think we are being responsive at the numbers we're looking at."

— Lylah M. Alphonse
Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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