8 Halloween Costumes That Have Been Banned By Schools

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Sometimes Halloween can be more tricks than treats. People of all ages love to dress up as their favorite pop culture characters or other cool things, but some costumes can be more controversial than others. Some schools have chosen to ban Halloween completely. Others have compiled lists of inappropriate and offensive costumes like the ones below that students are not allowed to wear.

1. JESUS CHRIST

In 2013, a student at Highland Park High School in Illinois was made to remove his Jesus costume because the school said it was “offensive” and that he was “promoting religion.” The senior told the press that he wore the costume because Jesus was the “most influential person” in his life, but the school upheld their policy against costumes that could be offensive to someone’s religion, culture, gender, heritage, or sexual orientation.

2. SUPERHEROES

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The Halloween staples were thought to be too scary for some children, so administrators at an unidentified school sent a letter to parents ahead of the holiday. Written in Comic Sans, the notice, which was shared on reddit in 2014, states that superheroes including (but not limited to) Wolverine, Batman, Superman, the Power Rangers, and “any of the Fantastic 4” are not allowed, and neither are witches, ghosts, or any other costume that would be “scary to a small child.”

3. GEISHAS, SQUAWS, AND COWBOYS

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In 2013, the Dean at the University of Colorado Boulder issued a memo to the student body asking them to “consider the impact [their] costume decision may have on others in the CU community.” Featured on the list of frowned-upon Halloween garb were “costumes that portray particular cultural identities as overly sexualized, such as geishas, 'squaws,' or stereotypical, such as cowboys and Indians.” The memo also asked that students not host parties whose themes could be considered offensive, like “ghetto” or “white trash/hillbilly.”

4. SOMBREROS

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The Guild of Students at the University of Birmingham stopped its peers from participating in what it called “discriminatory behavior” by banning certain costumes at events, including sombreros and ponchos that some students wore to dress like “Mexicans.”

5. TRENCH COATS

In 1999, parents in Littleton, Colo. and other towns in America convinced schools to ban trench coats and all-black clothing year-round because the goth fashion was too closely associated with the students responsible for the Columbine High School shooting. “School administrators started considering these groups to be gangs and harassment of students was rampant with unwarranted backpack searches, detainment in the hallways by security guards, and being called into the administrative offices for questioning,” student Jennifer Muzquiz told CNN at the time.

6. CROSS-DRESSING

According to reports, an Eastchester, N.Y. school once banned cross-dressing to “stop students from mocking gay, bisexual and transgendered students as a costume prank.” In 2014, an advocacy group objected to the ban but the superintendent, Walter Moran, stood behind the decision. “Any student has the absolute right to cross-dress any day or days, and the school respects that student's personal decision,” read a statement by Moran. “In an effort to respect the race, religion and gender of our students, we believe that Halloween costumes should not make light of this.”

7. SEXY NURSE

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At Quinnipiac University, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer said that insensitive costumes, including “blackface, or as a Mexican, hooker, gangster or promiscuous nurse,” were just as offensive as “writing the ‘N-word’ on a blackboard or a chalkboard or a whiteboard in the dorms or in the residence halls.”

8. ANYTHING WITH A WEAPON

An elementary school in New Jersey wanted to compromise with parents and their children in 2007, so they allowed some costumes to be worn without the accessories. The New York Times reported that throughout the school there were gun-less cowboys, swordless pirates, and devils without pitchforks. “When you consider all the horrific things that have happened in recent years, including 9/11,” said a teacher at the school, “I can’t blame any school for wanting to steer away from anything that might promote violence.”

Massive Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Raw Turkey Just Days Before Thanksgiving

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The U.S. has been in the midst of a salmonella outbreak for more than a year, with the bacteria contaminating everything from cereal to snack foods as well as raw poultry. Now health experts warn that your Thanksgiving dinner may put you at risk for infection. As ABC reports, salmonella has been traced back to a number of turkey products, and Consumer Reports is urging the USDA to name the compromised brands ahead of the holiday.

The drug-resistant strain of salmonella linked to the recent outbreak has been detected in samples taken from live turkeys, raw turkey products, and turkey pet food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since November 5, 2017, 164 people in 35 states have contracted the infection from a variety of products.

While many of the items linked to the salmonella outbreak have been pulled from shelves, the potentially contaminated turkey brands have yet to be identified. In a news release, Consumer Reports urged the USDA to release this information in time for consumers to do their Thanksgiving shopping.

"The USDA should immediately make public which turkey producers, suppliers, and brands are involved in this outbreak—especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner," Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union (the policy department of Consumer Reports), said in a statement. "This information could save lives and help ensure consumers take the precautions needed to prevent anyone in their home from getting sick."

Even if specific brands aren't flagged before November 22, the CDC isn't telling consumers to skip the turkey altogether. Instead, home cooks are encouraged to practice the same safety precautions they normally would when preparing poultry. To avoid salmonella poisoning, start with a clean work area and utensils and wash your hands and counter thoroughly before and after preparing the bird. But skip washing the bird itself, as this can actually do more to spread around harmful pathogens.

Cook your turkey until the meatiest part reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. And if you're looking for a way to make sure the juiciest parts of the turkey cook through without drying out your white meat, consider cooking the parts separately.

[h/t ABC]

How to Cook a Turkey for Thanksgiving, According to the Experts

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In a letter written to his daughter Sally in 1784, two years after the bald eagle was chosen as the country’s national emblem, Ben Franklin referred to the species as a “bird of bad moral character” that steals fish from weaker birds. A turkey, he argued, was a “much more respectable bird.”

But many Americans have a difficult time cooking turkey. Despite their fine moral fiber, turkeys have a reputation for being among the trickiest of birds to prepare. They're big and bulky, and cooking turkey to a safe temperature can easily dry out the meat. Techniques like brining and spatchcocking—essentially snapping the turkey’s spine in order to lay it flat—are best left to advanced chefs. So how can holiday hosts cook turkey to everyone’s satisfaction?

GET TO KNOW YOUR THANKSGIVING TURKEY

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It helps to understand what kind of fowl you’re dealing with. “The average Thanksgiving turkey is 12 or 14 pounds,” says Guy Crosby, Ph.D., an adjunct associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “That’s opposed to a 3- or 4-pound chicken. And dark meat tends to need a higher temperature to cook than white meat, which runs the risk of drying out the breast when you’re trying to get the rest of it cooked. People also want a nice, crisp brown skin. Balancing all of that with safety is a big challenge.”

Undercooking a turkey can be problematic, particularly if you’d prefer not to serve up a Petri dish of Salmonella to guests. The bacteria that causes food poisoning and all its unpleasant symptoms is commonly found in poultry and has even led to a recent 35-state outbreak of illness due to contaminated raw turkey products that were apparently mishandled by consumers. The good news? Cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F will kill any germs lurking inside.

Still, you want to be careful in how you handle your raw materials. According to Sue Smith, co-director of the Butterball Turkey-Talk Line, you should avoid washing the turkey. “We don’t recommend it because there’s no reason,” Smith tells Mental Floss. “You don’t want [contaminated] water to splatter around the countertops.”

BRINE A TURKEY UNDER ITS SKIN

If you bought your turkey frozen, let it thaw breast-side up for four days in your refrigerator. (A good rule of thumb is one day for every four pounds of weight.) Place the bird in a pan and put it on the bottom shelf so no juices leak on to other shelves or into food.

Once it’s thawed, you can consider an additional step, and one that might make for a juicier bird. Rather than brine the entire turkey—which allows it to soak up saltwater to retain more moisture during cooking—you can opt to moisten the meat with a 1:1 salt and sugar mixture under the skin.

“Turkeys are so darn big that brining it is not something you can do conveniently in a fridge,” Crosby tells Mental Floss. “If you want to add salt to a turkey, the general recommendation is to salt it under the skin.” Crosby advises to use the salt and sugar blend anywhere meat is prone to drying out, like the breast. Let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours, uncovered. (That’s one day in addition to thawing. But check to make sure your turkey didn’t already come pre-brined.)

This accomplishes a few things. By adding salt to the meat, you’re going to let the meat retain more moisture than it would normally. (Cooking effectively squeezes water from muscle tissue, wringing the bird of its natural moisture.) By leaving it uncovered in the fridge, you’re letting the skin get a little dry. That, Crosby says, can encourage the Maillard reaction, a chemical response to heat in excess of 300 degrees that transforms amino acids and sugar, resulting in a tasty brown skin.

Once your bird is ready for roasting, Smith advises you to place the bird on a flat, shallow pan with a rack that raises it 2 or 3 inches. “The rack lets airflow get around the bottom,” she says. If you don’t have a flat rack, you can use carrots, celery, or even rolled tin foil to give the turkey a little boost off the pan.

COOK TURKEY TO A SAFE TEMPERATURE

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A 12- to 14-pound turkey will need to roast for roughly 3 hours at 350°F in order to cook thoroughly. But you’ll want to be sure by using a food thermometer. Both Smith and Crosby caution against trusting the disposable pop-up thermometers that come pre-inserted in some turkeys. Invest in a good oven-safe meat thermometer and plunge it right into the deepest space between the drumstick and thigh and get it to a safe 175 to 180 degrees. (The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends heating it to no less than 165 degrees.) “By that point, the breast will be over 180 degrees,” Crosby says. If you’ve stuffed the turkey—and roughly half of people do, according to Butterball research—make sure it’s cooked to a temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Once your bird is done, let it sit out for 35 to 45 minutes. The turkey will retain enough heat that it won’t get cold (don't cover it with tin foil, because the crispy skin will get soggy). Instead, a cooling-off period allows the muscle fibers to reabsorb juices and the salt and sugar to bring out more of the flavor.

REHEAT LEFTOVER TURKEY SLOWLY

When it’s time to put the leftovers away, be sure to keep slicing. Individual portions will cool down more quickly than if you shoved the entire bird into the fridge. Eat them within two or three days. If you want to keep it from drying out during reheating, Crosby suggests putting the meat into a covered baking dish with some vegetables, potatoes, or gravy and using the oven on low heat or a saucepan on the stovetop. “You’ll retain more moisture the slower you reheat it,” he says.

Roasting isn’t the only approach, as some of your friends or family members may attest. In addition to the brutal triumph of spatchcocking, some people opt to deep-fry turkeys, grill them, or slice them up into pieces prior to cooking. There’s no wrong way, but roasting will give you the most predictable results.

“Roasting is Butterball’s preferred method,” Smith says. “It consistently turns out a tender, juicy turkey.” Or, as Ben Franklin would say, a much more respectable bird.

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