Students in Maryland’s upscale Montgomery County may not get any holidays next year.
They’ll still have plenty of days off from school. But a draft school calendar, approved overwhelmingly by the county’s board of education, specifically avoids mentioning Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur or even Eid al-Adha.
“Board members said Tuesday that the new calendar will reflect days the state requires the system to be closed and that it will close on other days that have shown a high level of student and staff absenteeism,” The Washington Post reports. “Though those days happen to coincide with major Christian and Jewish holidays, board members made clear that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays, which they say is not legally permitted.”
The change seems to have been triggered by an attempt to appease Muslim parents, who’ve complained that the district recognizes major Christian and Jewish holidays but not Muslim ones. If so, it backfired. “By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality,” activist Saqib Ali told the Post.
School board members add they’re just following the lead of nearby Fairfax County, which doesn’t mention religious holidays but gives students “Winter Break” at Christmas and “Spring Break” at Easter.
It’s unclear how many Muslim students attend Montgomery County schools. But officials there report that when parents planned to keep their children home for Eid al-Adha, 5.6 percent of students and 5 percent of teachers were absent, only a bit higher than the rate on a typical school day.