Monday, November 9, 2015

Recognizing Holiday Diversity in Schools

C. Coimbra photo

Excerpted from Fusion

In most public schools around the U.S., classes are cancelled for Christian holidays like Christmas and Good Friday, while students of other faiths have to choose between going to class and celebrating their own holy days.

That’s not the case in New York City.  Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that public schools would be closed next year for Lunar New Year, a major holiday in Chinese and Korean culture. New York schools also cancel classes for the Jewish holidays Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and the Muslim holidays Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

Advocates say recognizing these days is important in respecting the city’s diverse religious communities...

Lunar New Year, celebrated in January or February and is the biggest holiday of the year in Chinese and Korean culture. (It’s a cultural holiday, not a religious one.) In China, where people traditionally go back to their hometown for the holiday, it’s the occasion for the largest annual human migration in the world...

...The San Francisco and Tenafly, N.J., public school districts also give students off for Lunar New Year, while schools in Cambridge, Mass.; Paterson, N.J.; and Dearborn, Mich. and other cities close for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. But of the 25 largest school districts in the U.S., New York by far recognizes the widest range of holidays...

...In part, the decision to recognize religious holidays has to do with numbers. Closing schools during Muslim holidays “was about inclusion and respect for a very large, burgeoning faith community in New York City,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told Fusion. “One out of every eight public school students in New York is Muslim…so in a population of 1.1 million students, that’s a lot of students.” Some schools in Muslim neighborhoods would have up to half of their students not show up on the holidays, she said.

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