Schools Struggle to Accommodate Religious Holidays

July 21, 2006

Source: USA Today

On July 21, 2006 USA Today reported, "Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and Christian � each faith has its holy days. Schools across the country are asking how to respect them all.

Consider the University at Albany, which canceled classes on major Muslim holidays. Faculty wanted the move out of concern for Muslim students after the Sept. 11 attacks. But then came the questions: What about Hindus? Buddhists?

President Kermit Hall last fall decided to return to the original calendar.

'Can you operate a university and give each religious group an accommodation? I think the answer is, "No,"' he said.

Make that 'maybe.' School administrators across the country are rethinking their calendars as their student bodies become more diverse.

In May, Muslim parents asked New York City's education department for days off on two major Muslim holidays, which some districts in Michigan and New Jersey already have granted. In January, a Long Island mosque petitioned New York Gov. George Pataki to consider the holidays when scheduling mandatory statewide testing. Last month, the state Legislature passed a bill that would take all religious holidays into account when scheduling the mandatory tests. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called it the first step toward recognizing Muslim holidays in public schools."