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‘Graphic’, ‘violent’ pumpkin display angers parents of Peace Arch Elementary kindergarten students

Surrey school district has apologized for display, sent letter home to parents
Peace Arch Elementary school (File photo)

Students at Peace Arch Elementary were in for quite a spook Halloween morning as a pumpkin which at least two parents described as inappropriate and overly graphic was displayed in the school.

The White Rock school held a pumpkin carving contest, Monday, Oct. 31, inviting students to get involved this year by presenting their most creative and frightening takes on Halloween. One participant, however, may have taken the notion of ‘scary’ a little too far, some parents say.

“When I dropped my children off at school and placed our two pumpkins on the table, I realized there was an extremely graphic illustration and representation of violence on one of the pumpkins made to depict either a murdered baby with blood covering it or an aborted fetus being ripped from a womb, I’m not sure,” Aaron Goodman, a parent of two students, aged five and seven, at the school told Peace Arch News.

“I was shocked.”

Goodman reached out to the school’s principal who confirmed that students had participated in a parade that made its way around the school, including past the area where the pumpkins were displayed.

“Unfortunately, a number of students saw this pumpkin and we apologize for this,” Ritinder Matthew, Surrey Schools’ associate director of communication services told PAN.

The school’s principal told Goodman that the “graphic” pumpkin was removed after the parade was over.

“I’m extremely upset. I called the school and they admitted that a mistake was made but that’s not good enough for me. I asked that an apology be issued to the school community. I was told that it would not be forthcoming… Now I’m left feeling like my kids are unsafe and potentially traumatized and there’s no follow-up” Goodman said.

For Kyle Tsai, another parent with two children the same age as Goodman’s, the pumpkin display also raises “quite a concern.”

“I just think for an elementary school, it’s a little too gruesome,” Tsai said.

“Before they put the piece of art out to the public, maybe they should screen it first and for some of the more provocative art, it should be in another classroom or showing place.”

Tsai sent an email to the principal of the school, who assured him that the ‘scary’ category of the contest will not return next year. He said the reply addressed his concerns.

Goodman, however, can’t help but think about the long-term effects seeing the display might have on his children, especially his youngest.

“It’s not enough for me (for them) to say, ‘Well, next year we won’t have it.’ What are they going to do today to help my children?” Goodman said,

“They can walk by a scary display when they come home and we go trick-or-treating tonight and I’ll be there holding their hand… but I’m not there with them at school.”

An email should be issued to every family with kids who attend the school in an effort to be transparent about the situation, Goodman said. At the same time a discussion with the students to relieve any fear some students may be feeling is also in order, he said.

“The well-being of our students is always our first priority, and school staff is checking in with students and will continue to have these conversations throughout the week,” Matthew said. Additionally, a letter has been sent out to parents to inform them about the incident.

“The protocols for the pumpkin carving contest are also being reviewed by school staff to ensure that all categories and subsequent entries are appropriate for all ages.”


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Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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