Should NJ schools close for religious holidays?
Question: should schools close for religious holidays?
If you live in a given district where the majority of students practice one religion over all others, some educators feel it makes sense to close for that holiday for what they call “secular considerations.”
That is, why bother opening the school to teach to a handful of students while the majority will be observing their holiday.
Such is the case in Hunterdon where Hunterdon Central High will be open despite protests from members of the Jewish community that it be closed during the High Holydays of Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur.
Some parents like Kelly Ellenberg suggested closing the schools all three days of the Jewish holiday, as well as one day each for holidays such as Ramadan and Diwali, saying that the school should have, in her words,"either a culturally diverse calendar" or no holidays on religious days, saying the school "pretends" that it's "not scheduling breaks around Christmas or Easter."
She suggested moving the winter break to the first week of January. Students who are "no part of the majority" are "still as important as anyone else."
There were others who felt that keeping their kids out of schools would stress them out to try and make up work missed during the times they’d be absent.
Parent Debbie Hilton said of her daughter who’d miss class on those holidays:
"Put yourselves in her shoes." "Please, please add these holidays."
On the other hand, Dr. Yolanda Cillo, a resident, urged the board to "stay with the state holidays,” saying "a lot of religions are recognized."
And that brings us to Glen Rock, where a good many students are Hindus and schools will close for the festival known as Diwali.
Thusfar there’s been no blowback from any other group as Glen Rock is home to a large Asian Indian population.
New Jersey's Asian Indians — many of whom are Hindu — numbered nearly 300,000 in 2010, with Middlesex County boasting the state's largest population.
A recent poll by the School Boards Association revealed that just 2 percent of districts were considering adding Diwali to their calendars, which is about the same percentage contemplating adding Ramadan as well.
Makes you wonder who’s got it right. Glen Rock, where the majority of students are Hindu making it pointless to keep schools open – or Hunterdon which will keep schools open despite pleas from Jewish members of the community to close the schools for the High Holydays.
My feeling is that if schools close in deference to one group, albeit a majority in the district – another group just might cry foul – and begin legal action.
And you know who pays for that!
Better to just observe the state holidays and leave it at that!