NYC Bans Halloween, Birthdays, Aliens and More on School Tests

Students in New York City's public schools cramming for tests can delete words like birthdays, junk food, Halloween, dinosaur and even dancing from study lists.

References to such words have been banned from city-issued tests in an edict issued by the city's Department of Education for fear the words could "appear biased" or "evoke unpleasant emotions" in students.

The department included the list of 50 banned topics in a recently issued request for proposals to companies interested in creating new versions of tests given to New York City students throughout the year to measure progress in English, math, science and social studies.

"Some of these topics may be perfectly acceptable in other contexts but do not belong in a city- or state-wide assessment," reads the request, first obtained and reported on by the New York Post.


Dinosaurs, the Post reports, were banned because they reference evolution, which fundamentalist students might not agree with. Birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah's Witnesses and Halloween suggests paganism, so they are not allowed, and so is dancing because some sects object, according to the paper.

Also on the list of topics that companies are asked to stay away from are "creatures from outer space," homes with swimming pools, computers, vermin, junk food, abuse, terrorism, divorce, any references to disease and holidays."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education told the Post the banned topics do not constitute censorship but a way for "students to complete practice exams without distraction."

The city is in line with creating guidelines for its tests but the list of forbidden topics runs twice as long as one recently issued by a group of states, according to the Post.

Companies have until April 23 to submit their proposals.

The results of student testing in New York City public schools gained an even higher profile earlier this year when the Education Department released data estimating the performance of more than 12,000 teachers in the city's public schools. The teacher evaluations, released in February, are based primarily on how students in their classrooms perform on the city's standardized tests.