msnbc.com news services
updated 10/22/2004 4:26:24 PM ET 2004-10-22T20:26:24

A Washington state school district has banned Halloween parties during the school day because it says children dressed up as goblins and witches take time away from learning, and because it wants to avoid offending believers in the Wiccan religion.

“Our No. 1 priority is protecting the instructional day,” said Puyallup School District Superintendent Tony Apostle after the district canceled observance of the Oct. 31 celebration. Apostle said the 20,000-student district, about 30 miles south of Seattle, doesn’t have enough time in the day as it is to teach students everything they need to know.

District spokeswoman Karen Hansen said most Puyallup schools haven’t had Halloween celebrations for years.

Schools that want to have Halloween parties are welcome to have them, she said, but only after the school day ends.

Members of the Wiccan religion did not ask the school district to cancel Halloween events, but they have expressed displeasure with such images as witches with pointy noses and witches flying on broomsticks, Hansen said.

Parents angered at the decision not to celebrate Halloween will protest at a school board meeting on Monday.

The mother of a second-grader told Reuters that everyone was too worried about being “politically correct” and that her daughter was very disappointed.

Other U.S. schools have banned Halloween festivities because some families don’t celebrate it for religious reason and other cannot afford costumes.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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