Students used to eagerly await Christmas and Easter break. Although the breaks’ names have changed, their original purpose remains. WGSD prides itself on fighting for diversity but is not respecting diversity of religion.
The nation’s biggest district, New York City Public School District, has observed two Islamic holy days, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, since 2016. WGSD could use some pointers from them. After all, Pew Research Center reported in 2010 that there are at least 1.5 billion Muslim people worldwide.
Junior Musa Siddiqui, a practicing Muslim, said, “In an ideal world, I think just for all religions, not only Islam, but also Judaism and any other religious holidays should be taken into account, too, besides just Christmas.”
There are more religions than Christianity, so the district should give an effort to observe more than just Christian holidays. It’s not fair that students and staff should be forced to choose between getting an education and participating in their faith.
The policy for religious holiday observances for staff states, “A professional staff employee may be allowed a paid absence for up to two school days for a bona fide religious observance obligation that cannot be fulfilled before or after the school day schedule or on a Saturday or Sunday.”
Currently, the district has no explicit policy for religious holidays for students. Those who choose to practice their faith at the expense of an absence are at a disadvantage. Even the school agrees that absences are detrimental to the health of students. The student handbook states, “Absences have a damaging effect on the student’s ability to learn the content of the course.”
The 2008 U.S census reported that the most populated religious groups were Christianity, Non Denominational, Evangelism, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.
If WGSD observed the two most important religious holiday from each of those groups, that could account for 10 days off of school.
Accommodations can be made. Winter break spans 17 days and only five holidays: Winter Solstice, a Wiccan holiday from Dec. 20-23, Christmas, a Christian holiday on Dec. 25, Holy Innocence, a Catholic holiday on Dec. 28, Guru Gobind Singh’s Birthday, a Sikh holiday on Jan. 5, and New Years, a federal holiday. The excessive days off can be redistributed.
Senior Fanuel Achinda, a practicing Evangelist, said, “ Instead of making us go to school [on religious holidays], they could even make [those days] a half short. Or if it’s a holiday, announce it over the announcements… It might not matter to some people, but for those who are celebrating it, it does [matter].”
Observing religious holidays isn’t just about faith or creed. It’s about sending the message that students and staff, regardless of their beliefs, are accepted, welcomed and respected in our district. The school handbook features the quote,
“This school welcomes…
Students of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities
Students with diverse abilities
Students who are LGBT
Students of all family structures
Students who are English Language Learners
Students of all religions
Students from all socioeconomic backgrounds
Students of all body types
If this were the case, then the district should make more of an effort to ensure that students of all religions feel welcomed.
English teacher, Adam Conway, a practicing Buddhist, said, “ I think the question itself is the valuable thing: what should the district be doing, and how can we work towards more inclusiveness?”
This is Senior Trinity Madison’s first year on ECHO staff. She now serves as Advertising / Business Manager after a year of training and contributory writing in journalism class.
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