Principal Helpline: “Is It Appropriate For Me To Dress Up For Halloween?”

Sometimes it’s best to come as yourself

Is it Okay To Dress Up For Halloween?

Q.

I’m a new principal of a large elementary school. Halloween is a big day at our school. Teachers and non-teaching staff dress up and all the students parade around the school. In fact, many parents show up in costume to help out with parties. Is it appropriate for me to dress up too? At least in some modified costume?

A.

I think the key word here is “modified.”

A school psychologist friend of mine shared about a meeting with teachers and parents last Halloween. They were set to review a student’s progress and testing to see if the child qualified for special education services.  An assistant principal chaired the meeting dressed like Willy Nelson, his favorite singer. He even wore a wig with long braids. The psychologist said the parents were so unnerved they had to reschedule the meeting.

I have my own unforgettable experience. When I was an elementary principal, a guy who owned a gorilla costume thought it would be hilarious to sneak into the school and scare kids. Needless to say, the children were terrified. The gorilla hopped from desk to desk, and you could hear the screams the all the way to my office. When I ran down to the classroom and confronted the gorilla, I was pretty glad I was dressed in professional attire and not like Snow White. (I think the kids were too.)  I made him take the head of the costume off so the kids could see it was just a silly, silly man.

Despite these two weird examples of what can go wrong on Halloween, dressing up in a kind of “modified” way might a good way to be part of the day, and your students and staff would enjoy seeing you in costume. But I would recommend that whatever you choose, it’s something you can quickly remove in case a problem arises or you have a scheduled appointment. It’s important to remember that unexpected and untoward events can happen even on Halloween, and you’ll want to be able to address them not as Sponge Bob, but as the principal of the school.

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Suzanne Tingley

Posted by Suzanne Tingley

Suzanne Tingley has been a middle/high school teacher, department chair, principal, and superintendent. She taught graduate classes in education administration for the State University of New York. She developed a series of education videos and has been a Scholastic Administrator blogger.