Halloween is Coming: Costume Guidelines for 2021

Dana Kohls & Jessie Skipwith

It is our continual commitment to be a community committed to being kind, doing good, and raising socially responsible global citizens together. Social responsibility takes two forms this year: supporting the health and safety of our community AND ensuring that we are growing in our awareness and understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion competency.

Health & Safety

The CDC recently updated holiday guidelines (including recommendations for Halloween). Please see those here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween

For students, masks are required. Costume masks won’t replace the mask or needs to be worn over the required mask that they’d normally wear to protect themselves and others from COVID.

Cultural Competency

Halloween creates a salient opportunity to lean into making culturally competent decisions especially in the realm of appropriating culture. Unlike appreciation, cultural appropriation is when a dominant group within a society (the majority population) adopts aspects of culture from marginalized or under-represented cultures within the population. Often when these aspects are adopted, they are done with no context of the original culture or community from which they’ve been derived. In contrast, appreciating a culture usually involves research and understanding of a culture as well as observing boundaries regarding not trivializing cultural garb and practices. Stripped of their historical and spiritual roots, the dominant culture usually reassigns meaning to those cultural elements. Reassigning meaning usually looks like calling a sari a princess dress ... calling cornrows “Dutch braids” (remember, the Dutch colonized parts of Africa, taking African cultural elements back to Europe) or “Boxer Braids.” This video offers an opportunity to understand the impact of cultural appropriation on individuals in a very understandable way.

In considering your costumes, we encourage an understanding of how something that you might not think is offensive to other people is actually really offensive. Do your homework. Put yourself in someone else's shoes figuratively, before you do so actually. Think about whether or not you're turning someone's everyday 21st century culture into a caricature.

Source: Think first about the source culture. Is this a culture that has been historically discriminated against or oppressed (People of Color, American Indians/Indigenous People, Disabled, etc.). If so, choose another costume.

Significance (or sacredness): What's the significance of what you're taking? Is it something that is of major cultural significance, or maybe even something sacred, or is it just a run-of-the-mill ordinary item, an everyday commodity? (American Indian headdresses, author Susan Scafidi said, are the "equivalent of military medals. They're not just decoration or hats or jewelry or something ornamental. They mean something.")

Similarity: And finally, think about the similarity of what you're doing. Are you interpreting or being inspired by someone else's culture, or are you just making an exact copy?

Thanks always for your family’s commitment to help each member of our community to be kind, to do good, to work hard and make the world better. If you have any questions about the costume you or your child is considering, please feel free to give us a call and we are happy to process and discuss as we all grow and learn together.

About the Author

photo of Dana Kohls

Dana Kohls, Lower School Director

Dana holds both a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies and a Masters Degree in Development and Technology from California State University. Dana brings 18 years of teaching experience to Aspen Academy and has served as a Mathematics Committee Leader, District Professional Learning Advisor and Technology Team Leader.



B.S., Liberal Studies, California State University
M.A., Development and Technology, California State University