Some Wichita-area high schools are adding a line to their Halloween guidelines this year: No clowns.
Following a brief series of “creepy clown” threats against schools earlier this month, some school leaders in Wichita and Haysville are banning clown costumes, masks and face paint at school events.
In previous years, students at Campus High School and Haysville High School have been allowed to wear costumes on Halloween as long as they didn’t include masks or face paint, said Liz Hames, spokeswoman for the Haysville district.
This year, just to be cautious and avoid any kind of situation, we’ve added ‘no clowns.’
Liz Hames, spokeswoman for Haysville schools
Never miss a local story.
“This year, just to be cautious and avoid any kind of situation, we’ve added ‘no clowns,’ ” Hames said.
“I’m not sure that was even a popular costume with high school kids.”
Perhaps not. But “creepy clown” threats have become a national phenomenon in recent months, with people posing as clowns on social media in an attempt to frighten organizations or individuals.
In the Wichita area, two teenage boys have been arrested on suspicion of making clown-related posts on social media that targeted local schools.
At East High in Wichita – the state’s largest high school – officials recently added clown costumes to the list of attire that won’t be allowed in classrooms or hallways this Halloween. Also prohibited: masks, heavy face paint and anything that violates the school’s dress code.
East High principal Ken Thiessen said that in previous years, “a fair number” of students wore costumes to school on Halloween. This year, the holiday, which falls on a Monday, will kick off a weeklong United Way fundraiser, and students will be encouraged to donate $1 if they want to wear a costume.
Thiessen said he instituted the “no clowns” rule because of the recent social media frenzy linking clowns to violence, as well as to protect any student who might innocently dress up as a clown.
“Because of all the hype and social media, that might cause some concern,” Thiessen said. “We don’t want something to happen because someone thinks, ‘You’re out to get me, so I’m going to get you first.’
Because of all the hype and social media, that might cause some concern. We don’t want something to happen because someone thinks, ‘You’re out to get me, so I’m going to get you first.’
Ken Thiessen, East High School principal
“There’s potential issues on both sides, and I just think … it’s in the best interest of our learning environment,” he said.
Clown costumes haven’t been popular in previous years, Thiessen said, with the exception of The Joker from “Batman.”
This year, any student who dresses as a clown or violates other dress-code guidelines will be called to the office and directed to change before returning to class, he said.
Wendy Johnson, spokeswoman for Wichita schools, said the district has not issued a blanket “no clowns” rule but has left the decision to principals.
“If they did it, it would be school-specific,” Johnson said.
At Price-Harris Elementary School in east Wichita, a flier sent home to families announcing the school’s annual Halloween costume parade included a new rule on clowns as well.
“Reminder, costumes at school may not be gory, scary, evil, or have any weapons or look-a-like weapons,” the flier said. “Please note: There will be no clown costumes allowed this year.”
Schools aren’t the only ones avoiding clowns these days.
McDonald’s officials say the fast-food chain, mindful of the wave of scary clown sightings across the country, is paring back on public appearances by its famous clown mascot, Ronald McDonald.
And this week, the rash of clown crimes prompted retail chain Target to remove clown masks from store shelves.
In Valley Center, where a 15-year-old boy recently was charged with making a criminal threat against the high school, superintendent Cory Gibson said schools weren’t planning to issue any clown-specific costume guidelines.
“It has been our past practice that students not wear masks or face paint during the Halloween parties,” Gibson said. “Therefore, we are not putting any further restrictions on our costumes.”
Lori O’Toole Buselt, spokeswoman for the Maize district, said schools there were not planning any changes to their current Halloween costume guidelines.