7 Tips for a Safe Halloween

20131027_130423Last year, Halloween festivities were swept away on Long Island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. It was difficult to celebrate with the massive devastation, loss of power, and overall misery engendered by this destructive superstorm.  But it looks like Halloween is back in force in 2013. Here’s a blog I wrote about how to keep your kids safe during Halloween. It appeared in Huffington Post on October 23, 2012 – before Sandy!

There’s a nip in the air and pumpkins are everywhere: In patches, on porches, in stores and in schools. It’s hard to ignore the signals that Halloween is fast approaching.

Almost every store has aisles of costumes and candy. Elementary schools plan Halloween parades and high schools organize Safe Halloween festivities for pre-school and elementary school children. But I can’t help think that Halloween is not what it used to be, when armies of little kids combed the streets collecting goody bags from moms who had lovingly assembled them.

That was long before there were objections to Halloween on the grounds that as a religious holiday it shouldn’t be observed in public schools. A Seattle elementary school recently banned Halloween costumes on the grounds that the holiday interferes with learning. It was long before we knew sweet treats were taboo — and even dangerous for those with certain food allergies. It was long before deranged people inserted razor blades into candy and sexual predators prowled the streets. And it was long before the craze of candy-flavored tobacco in brightly colored packages. Cigarillos, cigars and such smokeless tobacco products as chew, snuff and dissolvable tobacco — considered by many the first step to tobacco addiction — compete with Halloween candy for shelf space in convenience stores.

As I recall, we got real about Halloween when schools began recommending that parents bring to school all of the candy their children collected to be X-rayed. When that happened, I thought for sure he holiday was doomed.

But it’s made a great resurgence in recent years. People now adorn their homes with Halloween lights and blow-up pumpkins, witches and scarecrows. It’s a bigger business than ever before.

And yet, Halloween has changed.

First, there are parents who object to Halloween celebrations being held in public schools. With children coming from so many religious and ethnic backgrounds, parents are opposed to celebrating holidays that are not part of their tradition.

On the other hand, it’s probably a good thing that much of the Halloween observance has moved off the streets and into the schools. It’s a lot safer. Every year it seems we get fewer and fewer youngsters trick or treating at our door.

Parents have to decide for themselves if and how their children celebrate Halloween. What do you think?

Here are some tips for a safe Halloween:

• If your child has a food issue, make sure you discuss it with the teacher and school nurse ahead of time.

• If you have an objection to a Halloween celebration on religious grounds, make sure you let your principal and teacher know about it well in advance of the holiday.

• Even if you take your children to a safe Halloween sponsored by your local high school, watch them carefully. It may seem like a very safe environment, but keep in mind that the school gym is full of strangers.

• It’s best to accompany your children if you allow them to trick or treat, including for UNICEF. And of course, discard any treats that are not pre-packaged or look like they have been tampered with.

• Honestly, it’s just a bad idea nowadays for children to go door to door — especially in the dark — to strangers’ homes.

• If you do allow your teenagers to go out, they should go to people they know — and in a group. Make sure they have cell phones with them and that you know their route. You should also stress the importance of obeying laws, respecting private property and not engaging in pranks or vandalism.

• Better yet, encourage your teens to volunteer at a Safe Halloween event at their school.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/meryl-ain-edd/safe-halloween-tips_b_1990569.html

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NEWS YOU CAN USE – High Stakes Testing, Halloween, Autism Play

Parents and teachers, already frustrated with high stakes testing, should know that New York State standardized exams are about to get more difficult next spring! Newsday reported this week that the 2013 state tests for third-through-eighth grade students will be based on new Common Core academic standards, according to NYS Education Department officials. Common Core is a nationwide initiative of the nation’s governors and national education groups. The tests will feature reading questions based on advanced nonfiction and math questions that require more in-depth analysis.

Newsday reports that school officials and teachers on Long Island are preparing for harder tests.

The Common Core is different and, on the surface, looking to be more difficult until our kids and teachers get used to it,” said William Johnson Rockville Centre Schools Superintendent, told Newsday.

We’re anticipating the kids will be expected to read longer, more complex and, perhaps, more interesting passages,” he added.

One bright light is that exams for children in third and fourth grades will be shorter. The Education Department shortened the exams for younger students in response to complaints from Long Island and other regions that the lengthy tests wore out younger children.

Halloween Costumes Banned in Seattle Elementary School

Speaking of the impact of high stakes testing, an elementary school in Seattle has banned Halloween costumes this year. Although there are some parents who object to Halloween celebrations being held in public schools, that’s not the reason children at Lafayette Elementary School will not be celebrating Halloween at school this year, according to district spokesperson Teresa Wippel. She said the decision is not based on political correctness, but on academic concerns.

That discussion did come up … that we have to be sensitive to the fact that there are kids from different cultures, different religions (who are offended by Halloween), but that wasn’t the reason for making that decision,” she said.

Both parents and kids are disappointed with the ban, which the administration said it would reconsider next year.

There`s a lot of pressure on teachers and principals to make sure the kids are academically competent, and we prioritize that here,” Wippel said.

Has the high stakes testing grinch destroyed yet another childhood pleasure or are the days of school Halloween celebrations rightfully numbered? What’s your school doing for Halloween, and what do you think?

A New Play About Autism and the Family

I haven’t seen this play, but the theater review caught my interest. “Falling,” a play about autism’s impact on a family, is currently at the Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane, Greenwich Village. Here’s the New York Times review.


It’s Up to Parents to Ensure a Safe Halloween

There’s a nip in the air and pumpkins are everywhere: in patches, on porches, in stores and in schools. It’s hard to ignore the signals that Halloween is fast approaching. 

Almost every store has aisles of costumes and candy.  Elementary schools plan Halloween parades and high schools organize Safe Halloween festivities for pre-school and elementary school children. But I can’t help think that Halloween is not what it used to be, when armies of little kids combed the streets collecting goody bags from moms who had lovingly assembled them.  

That was long before there were objections to Halloween on the grounds that as a religious holiday it shouldn’t be observed in public schools. It was long before we knew sweet treats were taboo — and even dangerous for those with certain food allergies. It was long before deranged people inserted razor blades into candy and sexual predators prowled the streets. And it was long before the latest craze – candy-flavored tobacco in brightly colored packages. Cigarillos, cigars and such smokeless tobacco products as chew, snuff and dissolvable tobacco – considered by many the first step to tobacco addiction — are now vying with Halloween candy for shelf space in convenience stores. 

As I recall, we got real about Halloween when schools began recommending that parents bring to school all of the candy their children collected to be x-rayed. When that happened, I thought for sure the holiday was doomed.  

But it’s made a great resurgence in recent years. People now adorn their homes with Halloween lights and blow-up pumpkins, witches and scarecrows. It’s a bigger business than ever before. 

And yet, Halloween has changed. 

First, there are parents who object to Halloween celebrations being held in public schools. With children coming from so many religious and ethnic backgrounds, parents are opposed to celebrating holidays that are not part of their tradition.  

On the other hand, it’s probably a good thing that much of the Halloween observance has moved off the streets and into the schools. It’s a lot safer. Every year it seems we get fewer and fewer youngsters trick or treating at our door. 

Parents have to decide for themselves if and how their children celebrate Halloween. What do you think? Here are some tips for a safe Halloween. 

  1. If your child has a food issue, make sure you discuss it with the teacher and school nurse ahead of time.
  2. If you have an objection to a Halloween celebration on religious grounds, make sure you let your principal and teacher know about it well in advance of the holiday.
  3. Even if you take your children to a Safe Halloween sponsored by your local high school, watch them carefully. It may seem like a very safe environment, but keep in mind that the school gym is full of strangers.
  4. It’s best to accompany your children if you allow them to trick or treat, including for UNICEF. And of course, discard any treats that are not pre-packaged or look like they have been tampered with. 
  5. Honestly, it’s just a bad idea nowadays for children to go door to door – especially in the dark – to strangers’ homes.
  6. If you do allow your teenagers to go out, they should go to people they know — and in a group. Make sure they have cell phones with them and that you know their route.  You should also stress the importance of obeying laws, respecting private property and not engaging in pranks or vandalism.
  7. Better yet, encourage your teens to volunteer at a Safe Halloween event at their school.