MILFORD, Conn. — By the time you’re reading this you may have already met Connor the Cowboy, 8, Chelsey the Princess, 7, and Cassidy the Cowgirl, 14. The Today Show and Fox & Friends may have introduced them to you.
They are happy, precocious, wonderful suburban kids. Chelsey is wearing a hand-me-down tiara from Cassidy. Connor plays football, but tonight he’s dressed like Woody from Toy Story.
Tomorrow morning, Fox News will send a car for the family, and they’ll have the Lilleys on to talk about the War on Halloween, which, because of their school district, is now on. They’ll be the face of it.
You will not have heard of Jaimie McCarvill, who has cancer.
She needs a very simple favor from the same school district.
She’s a working mom. She needs a bus to give her son a ride to school in the morning when she can’t. She lives less than two miles away.
But nobody’s been listening to Jaimie for over a year, so why start now?
Anyway, it’s Monday night at the start of the War on Halloween, and the kids are pressed inside a Milford school administration building dressed up like cowboys and cowgirls and princesses because their mom, Rebecca Lilley, got a particularly stupid, tone deaf note from the school district last week.
At her kids’ elementary school in suburban Connecticut, Halloween was canceled.
Even now, nobody seems to know exactly why. The cancellation of the kids’ parade was described in a memo to parents last week as a bow to “religion, cultural reasons, etc.” Apparently Halloween had been excluding some students and “school-day activities must be inclusive,” it said.
Last Friday, Rebecca put up a Change.org petition to get the parade back. On Monday, conservative news websites got a hold of the story: Milford was banning Halloween.
“Betcha Muslim terrorists are smiling,” Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman, wrote on Twitter. Then it trended on Facebook. Then it was on Fox News. The left didn’t want anything to do with it, either. By midday, the Halloween ban was at the top of Reddit.
As the cowboy, the cowgirl, and the princess waited in cute protest in a parking lot for the school board meeting to start, a local NBC cameraman swung by to tell the parents that The Today Show is going to run a segment in the morning, too. They’re about to be the biggest story in America.
Earlier on, the school had already reversed the decision, by the way. There will be a parade. America has already been saved.
Still, Rebecca wanted to tell the school board that the reversal letter was basically an attack on the community for wanting a Halloween parade back. For some reason, the superintendent had accused parents of “spreading untruths” and called their actions “very disturbing.” Rebecca, and others before her, would take the podium to talk about just that.
But Jaimie McCarvill wanted to speak first.
Because of the Halloween mess, Jaimie almost didn’t go to the school board meeting. She had prepared something, but she didn’t know if it was worth it, with all the attention on the Halloween scandal.
Jaimie is a mom of two.
Jaimie’s had cancer for over a year. Jaimie finished her last round of chemo just three weeks ago.
This meeting was supposed to be about busing, by the way. Milford Public Schools have a rule that states kids who live less two miles from any school can’t take the bus, no exceptions.
Jaimie found out about her cancer 20 days before the start of the 2014 school year. For obvious reasons, she needed an exception.
But Jaimie didn’t get an exception. Her kids live 1.7 miles away from school. They’d have to walk.
Over the last year, Jaimie called everyone she could. She started with the secretaries. She skipped to the top, to the superintendent’s office. She went to the middle, to each school board member. There were times where she emailed big groups of them all at once asking if somebody in a yellow bus could please pick up her son, who was walking 3.4 miles per day to get to and from school in 2015 because of a technicality. She played by the rules. Even now, she is exceedingly calm, composed. She has no reason to be.
She called the mayor.
“There’s nothing we can do.”
Eventually, the people at the school stopped emailing her back entirely.
So now she’s in this school board meeting, one year and some chemo later and, at this point, she’s not even really here for her. She’s here because they might change it. But they might not. Nobody had listened yet.
She wants to let them know that, sometimes, there aren’t sidewalks in Milford. Sometimes you have to walk on the street. That record brutal winter in New York iced up some sidewalks last year. Others got comically plowed over right before her son walked on it.
Sometimes he’d walk down the street and the bus would zip right past him.
It’s just hard.
Then Jaimie turns to the superintendent and holds up two pieces of paper.
“I don’t get a response, but now you write two pages about a parade?” she says.
Then Jaimie cries.
A few seconds later, someone gets up to talk about Halloween.