Why One High School Overturned Its 'Cross-Dressing' Halloween Costume Ban

Administrators say they wanted to protect transgendered students, but instead may have made them feel even more singled out.

"Students are not allowed to 'cross dress.'"

That Halloween rule from New York State's Eastchester High School sparked an outcry Tuesday, but late last night the principal announced that he's reversing it, even though he says it was meant to prevent bullying all along.

Eastchester principal Jeffrey A. Capuano, along with district superintendent Walter Moran, insisted that the measure was intended to protect gay, bisexual and transgender students from mockery -- but some gay rights groups, including New York-based watchdog Empire State Pride Agenda, criticized the move as being transphobic itself, sparking a huge community debate.

Despite the stated intentions of the district, Empire State Pride Agenda viewed the ban as an attempt to stop students from dressing themselves as they see fit. "Policing one's gender expression has no place in our schools," the group argued, "especially on the one day of the year when some students may get to express themselves fully and freely without fear or repercussion."

In a statement issued on Thursday night in response to these concerns, Moran explained the reasoning behind the stipulation, clarifying that the district was not restricting students' rights to cross-dress in general. "Let me be clear that any student has the absolute right to cross-dress any day or days, and the school respects that student's personal decision," he wrote, adding, "[W]e believe that Halloween costumes should not make light of this."

Students can reportedly now wear any costume they want, as long as it doesn't hostilely make fun of anyone's gender, religion or ethnicity. (They're also not allowed to carry toy weapons.)

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