Bainbridge Island school’s decision to cancel Halloween events prompts petition

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BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. -- From Russell Wilson to Black Panther, kids at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary school played dress up for Halloween last year.

“All the classes will get together in school and they basically walk around the school and see everybody’s costume,” 4th grader Quinten said.

Quinten says the majority of students participate in the Halloween parade at school. But not this year.

“I’m very upset because it’s fun,” Quinten said.

A letter from Principal Reese Ande to parents says the school will not be participating in any Halloween events this year. The decision is for the sake of what they call equity and inclusion.

The principal says some families don’t participate due to religious or financial reasons.

Two Bainbridge Island moms strongly against the cancellation started a petition on change.org calling on the school to reverse its decision. The petition is called "Keep Halloween at Blakely."

As of Wednesday morning it had more than 500 signatures.

Dahlia Treyve wrote this in the petition:

“I am Jewish. My children have had to miss school, including a field trip day, in order for us to observe our religion on the holiest of the Jewish holidays. My husband and I accepted that situation because we believe in the greater good - that my child's entire class should not have had to miss a field trip simply because one student had to. And yet, here we are, being told that the entire student population of Blakely, with the exception of a few to which our principal is referring, has to miss Halloween. This is not right, and the decision should be immediately reversed.”

Many parents have sided with Treyve.

Others like Jaime Quick say they can understand both sides. Quick also was curious on whether there was a problem or outcry from families to begin with.

The principal admits no families asked for Halloween to be canceled, but Ande says over the years the school has struggled with Halloween and they believe the change is a better way to go. Ande released a statement that reads in part:

“Blakely is always striving to improve and grow around supporting all students. For a number of years the Blakely staff have been reflecting on current practices, traditions and celebrations in an effort to ensure we are being inclusive for all of our students."

With the old tradition gone the school has a new tradition, which is the first Fall Festival on Oct. 25.

“I understand the disappointment associated with the change. This is a community that I love and respect. Having parents and students unhappy with my decision has certainly created pause and reflection. In retrospect, I wish I would have engaged the community in more discussion and will certainly do so with future decisions,” Ande said.

“If the staff thinks this is the best for our students then I trust them and support them,” parent Annie Sitzenstock said.

Although Quinten is not happy with the change, hid dad Mark is fine with it.

“Any direction we go to be more inclusive is the right direction,” Mark Cypher said.

The superintendent of the district says they are supportive of the decision.

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