'No Pajamas, No Party' Principal Bans Heartbroken Elementary Kids From Festivities

by Jerriann Sullivan

An elementary school principal made low-income students pay $2 for a pajama-themed party then rejected kids based on their clothing.

Parents and teachers are rightfully angry after the principal at a Brooklyn elementary school excluded students from a Valentine’s Day party because they didn’t wear pajamas.

The East New York school, PS 202, held the three-hour long “Valentine’s Pajama Jam” on Feb. 12 in the school’s gym that included a deejay, dancing, and cupcakes, the New York Post reported.

The students, who are mostly from low-income homes, were told to bring a $2 donation and wear their favorite pajamas on a flyer sent home two days before the event. The notice didn’t say that pajamas were mandatory, which was why teachers were shocked when principal Machael Spencer Edwards personally checked the kids to approve their attire. Several children were crying because they didn’t know that pajamas were obligatory, The Post reported.

“No pajamas, no party,” school employees quoted Edwards.

Themed parties are a good idea in theory, but when throwing one at an elementary school, the focus should be on fun and not on the clothing the kids decided to wear that day. The theme was Valentine’s Day so why was the pajama part added? Oh, probably because kids love the idea of a pajama party, but the principal ruined it by turning kids away.

And who decides what are and aren’t pajamas? Apparently Edwards had a very particular idea of pajamas in mind when denying students access to the party.

A fifth-grade boy had his parents bring him basketball shorts, which he sleeps in, and the $2 donation but was still excluded from the event. “I changed in the bathroom, and I got in line,” the 10-year-old told The Post. “But the principal told me I can’t come. He said, ‘That’s not pajamas, go back to the lunch room.’” Naturally his mother was confused and upset saying, “He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was a good student. Why exclude them based on something they have on?”

Sure matching pajamas sets are a thing kids wear, but not every child has them in their closet. I don’t have a single memory of wearing a matching pajama set as a child. My mom just dressed us in our most comfortable clothing for bed.

“Maybe their pajamas have holes or are too small,” a mom said. Her son brought the donation fee but didn’t feel comfortable wearing his pajamas to school. “You don’t know if they’re poor or sleep in underwear and a T-shirt.” Which should have been a primary consideration by Edwards when planning this event. According to The Post, 91 percent of the 547 students at PS 202 come from low-income homes. As the principal of this school, Edwards is tasked with being an educational leader who is sensitive to his students’ situations. He failed miserably.

The worst part is that he should have known better considering another educator already made this mistake. Last June, a principal was removed from her school after refusing to let kids into a school carnival if they didn’t pay $10.

The Department of Education told principals that kids couldn’t be excluded from fund-raising events during school hours saying “All student activities during the school day must be open to all students.”

It is a bit ridiculous that an education professional needs to be told common-sense advice like “Hey, you should include all the kids in the event that you are hosting at the school they attend.” Not only it is the right thing to do, it is logically the only option. What else are the kids going to do while all of their classmates attend the party? It was inexcusable for this principal to behave so insensitively and ignore a district-wide policy.