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Jimmy Kimmel takes on Melrose decision to ‘deemphasize’ Halloween in schools

Jimmy Kimmel.Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Parents in the town of Melrose have pushed back against the school district’s announcement that it would not celebrate Halloween in classrooms this year, and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel appears to be pushing back, too.

In an episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Wednesday, Kimmel called out the Melrose schools for its decision to “deemphasize Halloween” and not host their annual holiday festivities.

“Not because of COVID, it has nothing to do with COVID,” Kimmel said. “Schools will not host their annual Halloween festivities thanks to a new policy.”

Kimmel then read aloud parts of a letter sent to parents Oct. 22 by Melrose Schools Superintendent Julie Kukenberger, explaining the administration’s decision not to celebrate Halloween in schools this year:

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“MPS has worked to deemphasize Halloween and shift our focus toward community building through fall celebrations. As we work to address unfinished learning, two of our key priorities are 1. Equity and inclusion of all students. 2. Fostering a sense of belonging and partnership with all students, families, and staff.”

“I guess that means no Halloween party,” Kimmel quipped. “I don’t know why. It sounds like Julie Kukenberger couldn’t think of a fun costume so she ruined it for everyone.” Ouch.

“Kukenberger said there are people who don’t celebrate Halloween, and that means those kids won’t come to school that day,” Kimmel continued. “Then all right, problem solved. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but who’s feeling marginalized by a Halloween party? Goblin America?”

Kukenberger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The district’s decision has drawn a backlash, and parents have started an online petition called “Keep Halloween for our kids,” which collected close to 3,000 signatures as of Friday morning.

The topic was debated at a Melrose School Committee meeting this week, and parents planned a costume drive on Thursday “to make sure all students would have a costume to wear,” according to WBZ. The superintendent has reportedly walked back her decision and said Halloween would be celebrated in elementary schools this year, WBZ reported.

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The topic is still sparking debate. In multiple letters sent to the Globe this week, residents shared their thoughts. An Acton resident called the Melrose decision “a misguided subversion of holiday meanings and practices,” arguing that 24 countries across four continents throughout the world celebrate Halloween.

Another resident argued, however, that Kukenberger is “focusing on what matters more.”

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic made remote instruction a reality last year, educators need to help students make up for these learning gaps. The concept of ‘time on learning’ during the school day is more important now than ever before,” the resident wrote.

The mayor of Melrose sent out a letter on Thursday, advising the community that while disagreement is welcome, to refrain from personal attacks.

“I am not saying that folks cannot question those decisions or disagree; rather I am saying that the passion, professionalism, and commitment of Dr. Kukenberger and her leadership deserve our respect,” Mayor Paul Brodeur wrote. He asked the community to “take down the temperature and make sure our conversations are respectful, informed, and substantive.”

Kimmel, continuing his bit, rattled off a number of “alternate, non-offensive” names for the holiday, including National Gourd Appreciation Day, Squash Hashana, All Snickers Eve, and Afterlife Awareness Day.

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Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.



Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.