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Letter to parents leads to costume controversy in Royal Oak

Posted at 11:17 PM, Oct 26, 2021

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — In a letter sent out to parents, Royal Oak Schools is asking students to think about their costume choice, considering whether or not it could be seen as culturally offensive.

“It’s really just respect for the people you're trying to portray and the culture from which they come,” said Dr. Kimberly Martin, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator for Royal Oak Schools.

Dr. Martin says the letter is just a preventative measure and is appreciated by many parents.

“This is a great first step in really addressing the issues that are facing children of color in the district,” said parent Danielle Atkinson.

Atkinson, who is also a member of the Royal Oak Multicultural Parents Association, says the message teaches kids to be more inclusive.

“I hope everyone takes the challenge to think critically about the costumes, but also moving forward, asking ‘how is my child being respectful of other cultures,’” Atkinson said.

However, some Royal Oak parents like Brian Ellis, say their child’s teacher is now banning all costumes. The email he shared with 7 Action News told kids there will be no costume this year, asking them instead to wear fall-themed clothes.

“No costume just makes it, what are we even doing then?” Ellis asked. “That’s what Halloween is all about.”

Ellis says he isn’t sure why the new policy was added, adding that he understands Dr. Martin’s letter, but feels a ban on all costumes goes too far.

“I guess I’m a little on the fence about it,” Ellis said. “It just seems like we live in a world where everyone is so sensitive to everything that goes on, why would Halloween be any different?”

Meanwhile, Dr. Martin says her letter was in no way meant to cancel Halloween and hopes students think before deciding on a costume.

“We’re not calling anybody a bad person, we’re not trying to make people feel bad, but you know, intent versus impact,” Dr. Martin said. “That may not have been your intent, but the impact was still there, so let’s have a conversation about that.”