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EXCLUSIVE: Ontario High School: Halloween Costume Can’t Appropriate Your Own Culture

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A high school student in Brampton, Ontario was told he could not wear his Halloween costume to school because it allegedly culturally appropriates his own culture.

Joshua Sewerynek, a ninth grade student at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, planned to dress up as part of a mariachi band with his friends. The school, however, stated the Colombian student’s costume is “very offensive” and would not be allowed because “culture is not a costume.”

Sewerynek told MRCTV that students were instructed to tweet their prospective Halloween costumes at the school’s official Twitter page to make sure their costumes would be approved.

When Sewerynek asked if he would be allowed to wear his costume of a mariachi member, the school told Sewerynek that his costume is “very offensive.”

Sewerynek’s tweet prompted the school to post that costumes that were deemed “culturally offensive” would not be approved:

When Sewerynek pressed for an explanation for why his costume was deemed inappropriate, he claimed mariachi is part of his Colombian culture. 

“Although mariachi didn't begin in Colombia, it has become a huge part of their culture. Every year my grandfather still hires a mariachi band to play for his birthday, because he had such fond memories of them when he was back in Bogota,” Sewerynek explained to MRCTV.

Although Sewerynek wanted to dress up as part of what he deems his own culture, the school stated the reason for rejecting Sewerynek’s costume was still because “culture is not a costume”:

 

Soon after the tweet denying Sewerynek’s costume, the school also tweeted to keep cultural appropriation “in mind” when choosing a Halloween costume:

The school then contradicted itself when Sewerynek provided an example of a mariachi band. The school originally stated the reason for rejecting the costume is because it might offend others, but then said, “while it may not offend others, it is still our school’s job to limit this kind of behaviour”:


The school told Sewerynek to “feel free not to participate in the Halloween fun if you cant [sic] accept the rules” after he mocked the school limiting fun:

When another individual questioned the school’s decision, the school insisted, “This costume perpetuates that culture can be used as a costume, which is disrespectful and offensive. Please see Mrs. Campbell or Ms. Farrugia if you disagree or do not understand.”

Campbell and Farrugia lead the student council and student council social functions committee.

“That the social justice movement has gone too far when kids can't even represent their own culture,” Sewerynek told MRCTV.

Sewerynek told MRCTV he still plans to dress up to school as mariachi band with his friends.

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