- Riverdale High School
Halloween Letter Home
Halloween is quickly approaching. While dressing up and celebrating the holiday provides opportunities for fun and community building, they can also create situations where students inadvertently dress in a way that can be problematic and even hurtful. We are asking you to join us in helping ensure that students are thoughtful about the costumes that they are wearing to school. Being proactive can help all of us to avoid uncomfortable situations at school and can help us ensure that Halloween is a time where all students feel safe and honored.
Please talk with your student to make sure that the costume that they have selected does not portray a stereotyped image of a culture or group of people. In addition, please help students to make sure that their costume is not offensive to any racial, ethnic or religious group, any people with disabilities or illnesses, or any other group of people. Costumes should not become opportunities to turn a person’s identity into a stereotyped image. While students might choose to dress as a famous person or character whose identity is different than their own, please reinforce the importance of not darkening skin or using makeup to change a child’s skin color to match the person who they are dressing up to be. Students are often unaware of the long history these traditions have of causing harm and need our help in understanding why it can be hurtful and problematic.
Some examples of costumes that can be problematic include: Native American costumes involving headdresses or feathers, dressing as a homeless person, dressing as a person with any physical or mental disability, or dressing in any costume that portrays a narrow or negative stereotype about a specific ethnicity, religion or race.
If you are looking for further resources in order to better understand this issue, here are two articles with information:
- From Parents Magazine: “A Parent's Guide to Navigating Questionable Halloween Costumes”
- From NPR: “Cultural Appropriation, A Perennial Issue on Halloween”
We look forward to celebrating with all of the students on Halloween and appreciate your help in making sure that it is a fun day for everyone. If you have any questions at all regarding the day, please feel free to reach out.
Dr. Jeff Harding, Riverdale School District Superintendent
Abby Rotwein, Riverdale School District Director of Equity and Inclusion
A big thank you to teacher Jess Lifshitz who wrote the original version of this letter and shared it so that other educators could modify and use it in their own communities.