Costume controversy broke out this week when local parents protested the end of the traditional Halloween parades at Milford’s elementary schools, the ones where costumed children line up and march in and around their school during the school day.

But by the end of the day Monday, the parades had been reinstated.

Milford’s elementary school principals decided to stop holding the parades after getting complaints from some parents who felt the Halloween tradition conflicted with their religious or cultural principles. In a letter to parents, school Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Feser on Monday explained that the principals decided to focus on a different kind of Halloween event that would have taken pressure off students whose families are averse to the celebration.

“The thoughtful discussion centered on creating a Halloween celebration that would be inclusive of all children, would involve parents, and perhaps the larger community, would engage children in games, activities and more,” Dr. Feser wrote. “Many of the schools had held such events for years with much success.

“Ultimately, all eight principals, with my endorsement, chose to focus their energies on a family Halloween celebration, and forgo the 20-minute parade in school,” Dr. Feser wrote.

She said a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.

“Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event,” she wrote, adding that an evening event might be easier on working parents, and would be easier for children who did not have a costume.

As discontent and a petition spread Monday morning, several city leaders predicted the decision to end the parades would be reversed. And it was.

“The principals and I are about educating our children,” Dr. Feser wrote to parents. “With this in mind, knowing that the issue of Halloween is detracting from what we are truly about, and our time with our children around teaching and learning is most important, we have decided to reverse our decision.”
The controversy unfolded
School Board Chairman Susan Glennon said on Monday that she had asked that Milford’s elementary school principals reconsider the ban, noting that the decision to end the traditional October costume parades was not a board decision but rather a decision made by the school principals.

“When I became aware of the decision, I asked Dr. Feser to inform the board of it, which she did, and [Monday] I asked her to speak to the principals about reconsidering their decision,” Glennon said.

A petition at Change.org, started by Rebecca Lilly to reverse the decision, had more than 1,000 supporters by 1 p.m. Monday, and the issue had made headlines in many print and Web-based publications.

“I was shocked to find out our annual Halloween parade has been discontinued throughout our district,” the Change.org petition page reads. “This is just not right. Growing up in America there are certain traditions and celebrations we have become accustomed to celebrating at home and during school.”

Lilly attended Monday night’s Board of Education meeting and thanked Dr. Feser for reversing the decision. She said she did not mean to paint the schools in a bad light. Lilly said she thinks Milford schools are great, but she did not agree with the decision.

“To some people it may feel small, but what is it next, no ‘Merry Christmas’? We have to say ‘Happy Holidays,’” Lilly said.

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Rich Smith sent a letter to the local media Monday decrying the end of the parade. He said he believed the ruling would be reversed.

“I understand their intention was to show respect for different cultures and practices but in doing so they are denying these same children an opportunity to learn and participate in a long standing American custom,” Smith said. “This does work both ways. Unfortunately, this is an example of political correctness going too far.”

Jack Fowler of the National Review — a Milford resident and former Republican Town Committee chairman — suggested in a Facebook posting that the Board of Aldermen call a special meeting, with one item on the agenda, "A Resolution to Revoke an Incredible and Arrogant Act of Political Correctness by School Officials."

Fowler even wrote it for them, including the point that “political correctness is consuming American society and allowing perceived and concocted claims of victimization to eradicate cultural traditions and common sense.”