There won't be any costumed characters roaming the halls in one northern New Jersey school district come Halloween.
Citing concerns that dressing up for the day detracts from the learning process, Springfield Superintendent Michael Davino has barred students at the district's two elementary schools from wearing their costumes to school on Oct. 31.
Parents were notified of the decision in a letter sent out this week by the schools' principals.
Critics unhappy with the decision had called on the Union County district's Board of Education to reconsider the policy, saying it prevents "kids from being kids."
But the board declined, saying Halloween has become a "social holiday," not an educational one. They also note that students have ample time after school to celebrate the day in costume.
"It detracts from the educational day," Board President Pat Venezia said. "I can attest to it. I was once a PTA mom who helped put on those (Halloween) parties. You lose a whole afternoon of instruction and, because kids are anticipating it, you lose part of the morning as well. That's just how kids are."
Officials say it's unusual for districts to ban Halloween costumes at elementary schools, though some bar those that emulate dangerous or demeaning characters. But Acting State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf says the state has no formal policy on Halloween costumes in school, calling it "the type of matter that should be left to local decision-makers."