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Clown costumes verboten today in Fort Mac schools … but costumed mimes can walk our streets!

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Mump & Smoot

Happy Halloween!

Rest easy, Fort McMurray! Clown costumes of any type are verboten in your public schools today.

Other types of costumes that may be judged inappropriate for a host of actually legitimate reasons? Not so much, it would appear.

Ten days ago, Fort Mac’s Superintendent of Public Schools, Doug Nicholls, wrote a letter to parents of students advising them that as a result of "several reports about threats by individuals dressed up as clowns both locally and internationally" no clown costumes "of any type" would be allowed on school property, even on Halloween.

"Some actions by people dressed as clowns have resulted in criminal charges," he added.

A predictable media brouhaha erupted and, while Nicholls' letter didn't say anything about last spring's traumatic Fort McMurray fire, he brought it up in response to the inevitable questions from journalists. "We're just trying to deal with the situation we have in hand with our fire and re-entry,” he told the CBC.

Nicholls also referred media to Alberta’s School Act, which gives school superintendents the power to make rulings of this sort to maintain order in the halls of learnin' they oversee, as well as the district's "Safe and Caring" student conduct policy. That seemed to be enough for the media, and within hours, the Fort Mac clown story all but vanished.

OK, I recognize that the entire North American continent is now in a state of complete hysteria -- and not just about creepy clowns, either -- but should Canadian school boards really be jumping on a bandwagon that started out in the backwoods of Wisconsin and picked up speed as it rattled through rural South Carolina?

Not to speak ill of the citizens of those fine American states, the first one best known for its cheese and the second previously nicknamed the Swamp State and the Iodine State, but wasn't it just weeks ago we Canadians were smugly patting ourselves on our collective back for not going completely over the edge with CCDD (Creepy Clown Delusion Disorder)?

And what of Halloween costumes about which much more serious questions have been raised -- for example, costumes that appear to appropriate, or even mock, other cultures, races and religions?

So I asked Nicholls if the Fort McMurray Public School District had guidelines for Halloween costumes worn in schools or on school property beyond the prohibition on clown costumes. I also asked him if the district specifically had a prohibition on inappropriate indigenous costumes or other examples of offensive cultural appropriation. And I asked him if he had provided parents and students with a list of costumes that were considered appropriate.

Nicholls declined to answer these questions directly. He emailed me back to say that "our decision about Halloween costumes, based on concerns from some of our principals, was directed by the district 'Safe and Caring' policy and the School Act. All decisions regarding a safe and orderly environments and student behaviour are governed by policy and the Act."

Fair enough. But can we conclude from this that costumes some students and families might deem inappropriate, hurtful or offensive on cultural, religious or personal grounds are OK this year in Fort McMurray public schools? It would seem so.

It will not come as a surprise to readers, of course, that both the district's safety and care policy and the School Act are silent on the topics of Halloween costumes and clowns, creepy or otherwise.

So, call me a spoilsport or lambaste me for political correctness if you wish, but here's my thought: Maybe it’s time to stop encouraging students to wear costumes to school on Halloween -- on pedagogical grounds, since they obviously interfere with instruction, and not because of random outbreaks of CCDD, a condition I just made up, by the way, but which is bound to get official recognition soon.

In the mean time, for those of you who really are worried about creepy clowns, I have extremely bad news. The "creepy clown" that attacked a teen with a knife in New York City's subway system on Oct. 5 was not dressed as a clown at all! He was dressed as a mime!

I don’t know about you, but I have always been creeped out by mimes. This can only mean one thing, and it’s not good. Seriously, can Canadians feel safe when creepy mimes are allowed to walk our streets … without even speaking a warning?

Possibly even worse, Edmonton is home to Mump and Smoot, the self-declared "clowns of horror." And one of them taught my daughter at university! This creepy clown thing is striking very close to home indeed! I ask you: How bad is this?

Seriously, dear readers, if you're driving tonight, slow down, keep your eyes peeled and your hands off your mobile device. Inattentive, aggressive driving is far more of a threat on Halloween than creepy clowns will ever be, in Fort McMurray, Edmonton or even South Carolina, which nowadays wants to be known as the Palmetto State. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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