On Oct. 30, a second school shooting threat was discovered written on a wall in the boys’ downstairs bathroom, resulting in the cancellation of the annual Halloween costume contest and the administration prohibiting students from dressing up. Student attendance was lower than usual, although the threat turned out to be false. Staff and students were also encouraged to wear orange as a symbol against gun violence.
In an email sent by Principal David Sondheim on Monday, he explained the nature of the threat and the steps being taken by the school and local police to protect students. He wrote that students were not allowed to wear costumes due to safety concerns.
“While we know this will result in some disappointment, we feel strongly this is necessary for everyone’s safety and will consider rescheduling the costume contest to another date,” Sondheim said in the email.
Security was increased on campus, with police officers visible consistently throughout the day.
Many students were disappointed by the administration’s decision to ban costumes on campus, particularly senior Quinn O’Connor, who has in past years created elaborate costumes using his background in theatrical makeup and was planning to do the same this year.
“I was going to be a demonic dentist, and I’m still going to do it when they do the next costume contest, but it’s just disappointing. I had my alarm set for 3:30 in the morning so I could do it all,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor did not feel that the administration handled the situation well and that canceling costume-wearing was not the proper reaction.
“If it’s dangerous enough that you’re canceling wearing costumes on Halloween, then cancel school if you really think it’s that dangerous,” O’Connor said.
In the past month, Redwood has experienced two other threats of violence. On Sept. 19, a bomb threat resulted in the cancellation of classes for the day, and on Sept. 28 a shooting threat was discovered, planned for the next day, leading many students to miss school on Sept. 29.
With multiple incidents having occurred recently, O’Connor feels that giving too much attention to these threats is perpetuating their continuation.
“This year has been absolutely whack, it’s been so weird. And I think giving [attention to] all these petty attempts at putting fear in people is indulging it,” O’Connor said. “They’re letting it happen and encouraging bad ways of getting attention. It’s being handled really poorly.”
Despite the administration’s warning that anyone wearing a costume would be sent home, many students and even teachers chose to wear their costumes anyways.
Mr. Simon, a teacher in the math department, carried on his tradition of several years, dressing up as the “Mathador,” a costume consisting of a red cape and black hat, echoing the outfit of a Spanish bullfighter, or matador.
Because the costume didn’t include a mask, Simon felt that it was acceptable to wear to school.
“I didn’t feel like it was very obstructive of my face or anything, and it isn’t threatening or weird. The kids all knew who I was and weren’t surprised,” Simon said.
Simon also sought to lighten students’ mood on a day when the threat of a shooting loomed over the school.
“The teachers, when we dress up, we don’t do it for ourselves, we do it for the kids. My goal, especially since so much of Halloween had to be canceled, was to make the kids smile,” Simon said.
Contrasting O’Connor’s sentiments, Simon feels that canceling costumes was the most logical move.
“They handled it really well. I think it was a difficult situation that the school was in and given the concerns about the safety of all of the kids, it was a sensible decision,” Simon said.
In case of a dangerous and potentially violent circumstance, it’s important to be able to easily identify students, according to Simon.
“I think that some costumes, in an emergency situation, might make it hard for people to identify kids,” Simon said. “In many kinds of emergency situations, getting names and faces as quickly as possible is really important.”
Simon believes that the perpetrator of the threat most likely did not aim to cancel Halloween activities.
“I don’t think that was the intention of whoever wrote that on the wall, but often unintended consequences are a part of these things,” Simon said.
Similarly, O’Connor felt that without being able to wear costumes, the holiday was reduced to a typical school day.
“What is Halloween without costumes? Nothing, at all. It’s just people going to school on a holiday, that’s all it is,” O’Connor said.