A school district in New York took action against students wearing Squid Game–inspired costumes to elementary school functions given the hit show's violent content.
Earlier this month, Netflix announced that the Korean show became the streaming service's "biggest series launch ever" with 111 million viewers, surpassing another recent adult blockbuster, Bridgerton. Squid Game — a gory thriller that sees people compete to the death in childhood playground games to forgive their debts — debuted Sept. 17 and was a surprise success for Netflix.
Principals from Mott Road, Enders Road and Fayetteville Elementary schools in Upstate New York emailed parents saying they'd noticed students reenacting Squid Game at recess and further informed that Halloween costumes based on the series would not be allowed at school, CNY Central reported.
The Fayetteville-Manlius School District Superintendent Dr. Craig Tice said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE that their schools' guidelines do not allow costumes that feature "items that can be interpreted as weapons ... such as toy swords or guns, and that costumes should not be too gory or scary so as not to scare our younger students."
"Staff members have recently noted that some students at recess have been mimicking games from Squid Game ... [which] is intended for mature audiences due to the violence depicted in the show," Tice continued. "Because of this activity, our principals wanted to make sure our families are aware that it would be inappropriate for any student to wear to school a Halloween costume from this show because of the potential violent messages aligned with the costume."
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Tice added, "They also wanted families to be aware that some of our younger students are talking about and mimicking aspects of the show at school so parents and guardians would have the opportunity to speak with their children themselves about it and reinforce the school message that games associated with violent behavior are not appropriate for recess."
A spokesperson for Netflix told PEOPLE in a statement, "Squid Game is rated TV-MA and intended for mature audiences. We offer parents a wide variety of parental controls to make the appropriate choices for their families."
Dr. Joseph Ricca, the superintendent of New York's White Plains Public Schools, told WLNY that they won't be banning Squid Game costumes.
"We understand that different types of costumes have different types of experience and historical connections, and it's hard to single out one particular type of costume and say that's not allowed," Ricca said, while adding, "One of the things we've been hearing about in school districts all across the country, is children coming to school and playing Squid Game on the playground. It's never appropriate to play at harming one another, and that really is the guiding principle here."
In Florida, Bay District Schools alerted parents on Facebook earlier this month that Squid Game was catching on among young students.
"... Some children are trying to replicate show scenes at school but what sounds harmless (who didn't play Red Light/Green Light as a kid?) is not actually harmless because the game in the television show includes 'elimination' (death) and we are seeing kids trying to actually hurt each other in the name of this 'game.' Please make sure you're aware of the content your children are accessing online and that you talk to them about NOT playing violent 'games' at school. We don't want anyone to get hurt and we don't want to generate discipline referrals for students who don't really understand what they are re-enacting."
Licensed professional counselor Rebecca Cowan told Parents magazine that moms, dads and guardians should see the Squid Game trend as a way to teach kids about kindness.
"Parents can use this as an opportunity to talk to their children about violence and the importance of treating their peers with kindness," Cowan said, suggesting saying things like: " 'I worry about how playing these games may impact you now and in the future. It's important that we always treat others with kindness. I love you, and I'm trying to protect you.' "