Silver Chips Online

MCPS removed religious holidays from school calendar

Names removed after concerns raised by families in school community

By Martha Morganstein, Online News Editor
November 12, 2014
On Nov. 11th, the Montgomery County's Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Elections voted, 7-1, to not include any mention of any religious holiday on the school calendar. However, schools will continue to be closed for those days.
Montgomery County Board of Election officials meet to discuss the recognition of religious holidays on school calendars. Courtesy of My MC Media
Montgomery County Board of Election officials meet to discuss the recognition of religious holidays on school calendars.

The decision was sparked by the actions of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. They began a campaign to urge MCPS officials and school system's Superintendent, Joshua Starr, to close schools on certain Muslim holidays. "I have considered the concerns raised by some representatives of the Muslim community about the desire to recognize Muslim holidays and close schools on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, or at least have these days noted on the school calendar," Starr wrote in a memo to the Board of Education.

Currently, MCPS closes on certain religious holidays including Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. However, on MCPS calendars, the week off in December is called Winter Break as opposed to Christmas Break and the week off in April is called Spring Break, instead of Easter Break. Starr explained that the purpose is not to give superiority to certain religious groups," Decisions about closing schools on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, specifically, are not based on honoring or favoring a particular religious, cultural, or ethnic group," he explained. Despite Starr's explanation, co-president of Blair's Muslim Student Association, Walee Khan, felt that all religions need to be equally represented. "It's important to recognize all faiths," he said.

The County explanation for the days off are for the amount of absences that will result if there was school. "The decision to close on these days has been based on the experience of significant student and staff absenteeism impacting the school," Starr wrote. Nevertheless, Khan felt that they are ignoring the amount of Muslim students in schools. "There are also a significant amount of Muslims who attend schools in MCPS," he said.

Some feel that this decision wasn't giving a chance for people to celebrate their holidays. "The children want to home with their families. This is a family holiday that God designated and gave us the time to celebrate and be joyous," said MCPS parent Samira Hussein in a NBC interview.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12759