Valemount schools aren’t clowning around

by EVAN MATTHEWS

Less than a month after school lockdowns linked to “creepy clowns” uttering threats via social media toward Prince George schools, staff at Valemount Secondary School are empowering kids to carry some social responsibility into the scariest of holidays.

There is no formal School District 57 policy in place referencing clown costumes on Halloween, according to Valemount Secondary School’s Principal, Dan Kenkel, but the administration posed a question to the kids: is dressing up as a clown this year a respectful and socially responsible decision, given recent events?

“It’s practice as opposed to policy — we emphasize the fun and the leadership aspects to the holiday — the treat over the trick,” says Kenkel.

“This is a real positive community event, and we want to continue that,” he says.

Many other schools across the district were following Valemount Secondary’s lead, according to Kenkel, in taking a proactive practice approach rather than policy or punishment.
And it shouldn’t be about policy or punishment, according to Kenkel, as he says there is really nothing specifically about clowns that should cause a panic, or lead to banning the costume.

“It’s just not a safe or respectful way to dress this year,” says Kenkel, adding the school’s Code of Conduct outlines questioning if an act is safe and respectful to first yourself, and second to the community around you.

“If you can’t answer yes to those things, then it’s probably not okay,” he says. “It wasn’t a tough sell with our kids… They know what we’re talking about.”

On Monday afternoon, the secondary school hosted Halloween activities for the kids and teachers. By high school standards, the events are very popular, according to Kenkel.

The school plays host to a costume contest with a variety of categories, along with different games (bobbing for apples, toilet paper mummies, etc.), races and silly Halloween related activities in order to blow off some steam and have a little bit of fun, he says.

“Almost everybody dresses up versus the exception,” says Kenkel.

In keeping with the theme of safe and respectful, Kenkel says he and his administration have come up with a solution to avoid vandalism on Halloween — which has experienced none of as a result — and offer the kids a haven.

“Why not just dress up, have fun, hand out candy, and keep the school open?” asked Kenkel.

The school is just another trick-or-treat location, offering kids a place to grab a drink of water, go to the washroom, hang out or get picked up by their parents, Kenkel says.
The administration has been doing it for a couple of years now, he says.

On Halloween night, kids are able to visit the school, which will be putting on a haunted house as well, which will include a little bit of what Kenkel calls, “scariness,” and people jumping out.

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