Just as Jersey City, NJ was voting to add the Muslim holidays of Eid to their school calendar, Philadelphia reached a decision to add the holidays to their calendar.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, called the timing of Philadelphia’s announcement significant.
“These are like rays of light in the darkness,” he said, noting a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments fueled in part by the comments of presidential candidate Donald Trump.
New York, one of the first major city to vote last year to close schools for the two Eid’s, has led the way for other smaller school systems to add these holidays to their calendar, along with Massachusetts and Vermont.
Montgomery County schools, Maryland largest suburban Washington school system, had a significant win over closing school for the Muslim holidays, starting September 2016.
But Howard County board members said that observing cultural and religious holidays was just as important, if not more valuable, than curricular time for students.
“I know people that have gone to the synagogue for Jewish celebrations on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana who aren’t Jewish, to learn about the culture and festivities with the day off,” Rachel Lin, a student board member said. “If we did have school those days, it would be basically a normal school day and nobody would care enough to research it.”
Because of the need for separation between church and state, holidays cannot be given to students for religious reasons, but rather must be given for logistical reasons. This requires more research and data of the amount of absenteeism in each county for Muslim students taking off these days.
“What I need to know is at what point, at what percentage of student absenteeism, is there a negative impact on our school system and therefore requires us to close schools for everyone,” board member Sandie French said. “What is that tipping point? And it’s changing. I think that we need to be more informed right now.”
Jean Xu, president of the Chinese American Parents Association, wrote in an email, “School is a place to foster well-rounded children who are proud of who they are, and where they come from. School is also a place to raise future citizens who will contribute to this country as all-Americans when they grow up. A school system that recognizes and accommodates family traditions will certainly help achieving this goal in a diverse society.”
Written by Sam’n Iqbal