IT BEGINS: Maryland Schools Add Muslim, Hindu Holidays To Calendar

America is overwhelmingly a Christian nation yet we are so hell bent on “diversity and inclusion” that we’ve lost sight of pretty much all common sense. Maryland schools have decided to give students days off for Muslim and Hindu holidays. It begins…

After considering how best to create an inclusive academic calendar — either by removing all but state-mandated public school holidays or by recognizing additional holidays — the Howard County Board of Education has voted to close schools for students on a Muslim and a Hindu holiday, for the first time in the school system’s history.

“I am extremely pleased by the Board’s ability to discuss and unanimously agree to seek ways to recognize the diverse backgrounds of Howard County’s students and families,” said Board of Education Chairwoman Christine O’Connor. “We want to do our best to find flexibility within the calendar to provide opportunities for all students to experience all cultures within our community.”

The motion, which was proposed by board member Janet Siddiqui and voted for by all eight board members, will give students days off on Lunar New Year Eve, as is the case in the current year, but also the Hindu holiday of Diwali, and the Muslim religious observance, Eid al-Adha — either through school closings or professional development days for teachers. Schools will continue to be closed on the two holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana.

“While I did not foresee a unanimous decision,” said school board candidate Kirsten Coombs, “I am happy that everyone recognized the multiple cultures that make Howard County a special place.”

“This vote is proof that it is indeed possible to accommodate the religious needs of multiple faith communities in diverse school districts,” said Council of American-Islamic Relations Maryland Outreach Manager Zainab Chaudry. “Religious pluralism is the hallmark of an integrated and inclusive society. We see that reflected in the Howard County Board of Education’s decision.”

Standing in for Superintendent Renee Foose at the board’s meeting on Thursday night, Deputy Superintendent Linda Wise recommended a plan to close schools on state-mandated holidays and on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, as it has done in years past — a recent proposal to close schools only on state-mandated holidays and therefore open schools on the two Jewish holidays for the first time in more than three decades drew over 300 people to a public hearing in December.

But several board members expressed the need for next year’s academic calendar go beyond closing schools on the two Jewish holidays, to be more inclusive of the county’s increasingly diverse population and to allow non-Judeo-Christian students to celebrate their religious and cultural traditions.

“These groups aren’t asking for an unreasonable amount of days off. They just want one day to celebrate their family’s traditions,” said the board’s student member, Rachel Lin, adding that the board received over 500 emails about the inclusion of more holidays on the calendar. “With the amount of school work that students are getting in their classes, it’s difficult for students to want to miss a day of school. They might lose their traditions, because they are not able to celebrate.”

As of the 2014-2015 school year, 42 percent of Howard County students were white, 22 percent were black, 19 percent were Asian, 9 percent were Hispanic and 6 percent were of two or more races. The school system does not record the religious backgrounds of its students.


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