Montgomery Maryland schools removed religious holidays from the school’s calendar next year in a board decision on Tuesday.
The county’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 on the issue. Board members made the decision after Muslim community leaders asked for the Muslim holy day Eid al-Adha to be given the same treatment as Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah.
Though the religious holidays are taken off the school calendar, students will still have off those days. Board members wanted the calendar to reflect that those days off aren’t for religious observances. Instead, the days off stem from high student and staff absenteeism.
Though the Montgomery schools tried to be equal by removing religious holidays, the Muslim community leaders still aren’t happy. They wanted the holy day to be added to the calendar, not to wipe the calendar clean.
Eid al-Adha actually falls on the same day as Yom Kippur in 2015, Sept. 23. The schools are going to have off anyway, the Muslim leaders just wanted the recognition on the calendar.
For years the Muslim community leaders have been asking Montgomery’s school board to close school for at least one of the two major Muslim holidays.
School officials noted that Eid al-Adha hasn’t led to a high number of absent students. In 2013, Muslim community leaders encouraged families who celebrated the holy day to keep their children home. Only 5.6 percent of student and 5 percent of staff were absent that day.
Because of these low absentee numbers, county officials say the Muslim population in Montgomery doesn’t warrant closing schools. Muslim families have argued students shouldn’t have to choose between their faith and schoolwork, even if the Muslim population isn’t as high as the Christian or Jewish population.
County Ike Leggett disagreed with the board’s decision, according to NBC Washington. “I would simply add Eid al-Adha to the existing holidays they already have without substituting any other holidays.”
Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, said, “By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality. It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification.”
Board member Michael Durso was the only one who voted against the calendar change. He stated that no matter how well-intentioned the school board was, the decision was going to be perceived as insensitive to Muslim families.
What do you think of Montgomery schools removing religious holidays from their calendars?