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In October I'll be host

to witches, goblins and a ghost

I'll serve them chicken soup with toast

Whoopy once whoopy twice

Whoopy chicken soup with rice

That passage from well-known children's author Maurice Sendak's "Chicken Soup With Rice" has come under fire from at least one parent who objects to its use as part of the Halloween theme in Carroll schools.

Specifically, the parent objected to "witches, goblins and a ghost" because those words, along with classroom Halloween decorations, frightened her child.

That parent, though, is not alone in objecting to the use of ghouls and goblins to celebrate Halloween in the county's elementary classrooms. Some contend that celebrating Halloween promotes Satanism.

A "large number" of parents have petitioned the board to replace the traditional Halloween theme with an autumn theme, said board vice president Cheryl A. McFalls.

The petitions ask that all recognition of the holiday, including classroom decorations and literature with a Halloweentheme, be eliminated.

McFalls asked educators last week to reviewany materials, such as Sendak's "Chicken Soup With Rice," to make sure they're appropriate for whatever age level they are being used at.

"Since November, we have continued to receive letters about Halloween," McFalls said. "That's why I felt it needed to be brought up again."

Last fall, the board asked the school staff to review the extent of Halloween celebrations in the county's 16 elementary schools.In December, a report given to the board noted that Halloween is celebrated in varying degrees at each school -- at the discretion of theschool principal.

Two schools -- Uniontown and Charles Carroll --substituted a harvest theme for the traditional Halloween celebration last fall.

Board member Ann M. Ballard said that the board's decision to allow school principals, with input from local residents, tocontinue to determine the extent of Halloween celebrations at their school was appropriate.

"With all the crises in the budget and education, I think this is a real petty issue to be concerned about," Ballard said.

Reviewing "Chicken Soup With Rice," Dorothy D. Mangle,Carroll's director of elementary schools, has recommended its continued use because its predictability and repetitive language benefit children learning to read.

"In kindergarten classes, we really encourage the use of a lot of literature," Mangle said. "This isn't a bookthey are required to use."

The same issue surfaced in Howard County last fall. The board did not make any changes to school Halloween celebrations, but some elementary principals asked parents to be sensitive in choosing their children's costumes.

"They were encouragedto be more creative and use costumes that did not focus on violent types like Freddy Krueger," said Patti Vierkant, a spokeswoman for theHoward County school system.

Opposition to Halloween celebrationshas become a fall ritual of born-again Christians, said August Steinhilber, general counsel with the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va.

He said the association has no policy on Halloween. For other holiday celebrations, such as Easter and Christmas, theassociation recommends schools balance the use of religious decorations or songs with secular counterparts.

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