Maryland removes religious affiliation


Ben Prengler

A recent law has limited what teachers and other school officials may say as holiday greetings.

Claire Peralta, Staff Reporter

A Maryland school district recently petitioned by local Muslim families to include Eid-al Fitr and Eid-al Adha as part of the school calendar decided to rid the calendar of all religiously affiliated holidays instead of adding the requested days.

“The local board of education issued a 7-to-1 ruling Tuesday night that renamed Christmas break and other religiously based days off, shortly after Muslim community members requested that the school board also accommodate Eid al-Adha,” NYMag reports. “Not that the new names will alter when the days off occur: They will remain on traditional Jewish and Christian holidays, when the schools saw the lowest rates of attendance.”

No changes were made to the school calendar other than to the names of some holidays.

“This Board action DOES NOT CHANGE the days that students have off—students and teachers will still be off on Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 14) and Yom Kippur (September 23) next school year,” The Montgomery County Public School system website said. “All schools and offices will also be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas (December 24 and 25), the Friday before Easter (March 25, 2016) and the Monday after Easter (March 28, 2016), which are all state public school holidays. However those holidays themselves will not be named on the posted school calendar.”

In announcing why the district was making the change, the request to add Muslim days to the calendar was not mentioned.

“The change was made by the Board to recognize that the decision to close schools must—under federal and state law—be made for a secular or operational reason, such as high absenteeism of students and/or staff,” The Montgomery County Public School system website said. “MCPS cannot close for religious reasons.”

While students’ attendance records will not be penalized for staying home on said holidays, they will miss potentially important days of instruction.

“Students already get excused absences for religious holidays,” NYMag reports. “Muslims aren’t exactly getting in trouble for keeping their kids home, but some argue that students shouldn’t have to choose between observing their faith and getting an education.”