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Halloween Hits Streak Of Bad Luck in School

"Looking at Halloween from the perspective of a reasonable parent, Halloween is not a religious celebration, it is secular enjoyment, candies and dressing up," she said. "It is not something that schools need to ban."

Puyallup Superintendent Apostle respectfully disagrees. He said that while he personally enjoys Halloween -- his home has pumpkins, and he plans to takes his two daughters trick-or-treating -- the educational demands and religious sensitivities of modern America make his ban necessary.

At a school board meeting in Puyallup, Wash., students pack a cafeteria to protest the board's ban of Halloween costumes. (Blaine Harden -- The Washington Post)

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"Things are not like they used to be," Apostle said. "We have reached a time in our society when activities that make some children uncomfortable -- that exclude some children because of faith, values or culture -- need to be scheduled outside the school day."

The border between sensitivity and silliness, however, is not clearly delineated. There were many in the Seattle area (not just Puyallup parents) who argued that Apostle had gone way over the border.

"Halloween is, like, about fun, dude," wrote Robert L. Jamieson Jr., a columnist in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

At the noisy school board meeting, fun was steamrolled by outrage.

"Did you guys forget what it was like to be a little kid?" asked Katie McCoy, who has two children in elementary school.

One mother approached the lectern with her grown-up daughter, who she said was soon to be sent as a soldier to Iraq. The mother said her daughter, a graduate of Puyallup schools, would be defending a free society that deserved Halloween parties in public schools.

Another mother asked why, if educators were so keen on student test scores, did they cancel classes several times a year for teacher meetings and school fundraisers.

Perhaps the most startling statement -- one that garnered applause and cheering -- came from Larry Klingele, who said he was a follower of the Wiccan religion and a board member of the nearby Tacoma Earth Religions Revival Association.

Announcing that he spoke for hundreds of pagans in the greater Seattle area, Klingele said he is "not offended" by little girls who dress up as witches, go to school parties and squeal to one another, in the famous "Wizard of Oz" line from the Wicked Witch of the West, "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!"

Klingele, who installs security systems in homes and office buildings, said the school district's Halloween policy, and the firestorm of media attention it has aroused, was harmful to Wiccans.

"This decision perpetuates intolerance and misunderstanding," Klingele said. "Please reconsider and we are not offended."

The superintendent and the board, however, declined to revise their policy. On Friday, schools in Puyallup allowed no Halloween parties. Instead, teachers invited many elementary school students to wear pajamas to a harvest celebration during school hours.

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