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Thanksgiving costumes banned at school

November 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
There is a costume controversy in Claremont. The school board changed a decades-long tradition of students dressing up to celebrate Thanksgiving, and some parents are outraged.The tradition involves kindergarten students at Mountain View and Condit elementary schools. The kids usually dress up in costumes. Each school takes turns dressing up as pilgrims and Indians, and then join together for a Thanksgiving feast.

This year, however, there is a big change. The school board decided to continue holding the feast, but they are not allowing the students to dress up. The board is concerned the Indian costumes may have negative connotations.

"Out of respect for the native American heritage, we have made the decision to ask the children not to dress up," said Devon Freitas, assistant superintendent for human services, Claremont Unified School District.

That decision has infuriated many parents. Some of them have ignored the school board and dressed their kids up anyway.

"I think it's ridiculous. It's a longstanding tradition and the kids really enjoy it, so we're going overboard," said parent Kimberly Rogers.

Just after 9 a.m. Tuesday, the students took their annual walk for the annual Thanksgiving feast, many of them still wearing costumes as a form of protest.

However, at the end of a nearly mile-long march from Mountain View to Condit, there was another protest. This time, it was from a Native American group.

"What's offensive is there are harmful stereotypes that represent a harmful legacy of history that has been denied to indigenous people in this country. The true history of Thanksgiving is one of a massacre," said Klee Benally, who opposes the costumes.

For the students, there was a filling feast. However, for parents there were fierce arguments.

"I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with everything that happened was right ... there are many things that happened," said one person in support of the costumes.

"But when those traditions are harmful to the community, why continue them?" Benally replied.

"I don't understand why getting together to share a meal is harmful at all. This is why America is great, that we all can get together, different cultures, different ethnicities, we get together, and we share a meal together," said Kathy Brands, who supports the costumes.

Even though the board chose not to allow costumes, students who dressed up were reportedly allowed to stay in costume.

The board's goal was cultural sensitivity. The result: a decades-long tradition for kids became a political protest for parents.


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