The Montgomery County school district in suburban Washington, DC has voted to strip Christmas from the school calendar after complaints by Muslims, who say the move doesn’t go far enough.
In a 7-1 vote, Montgomery’s Board of Education removed references to Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah from next year’s school calendar, replacing them with ambiguous terms such as “winter break” and “student holidays.”
The decision was made after complaints by Muslim parents that the Islamic holiday of Eid wasn’t being recognized.
However, the school district’s failure to allow students time off for Eid prompted Saqib Ali, co-chair of Equality for Eid, to accuse education authorities of fostering inequality.
“Equality is really what we’re looking for,” Ali told WTOP. “Simply saying we’re not going to call this Christmas, and we’re not going to call this Yom Kippur, and still closing the schools, that’s not equality.”
School district spokesman Dana Tofig responded by pointing out that holidays are determined by likely absenteeism, not by adherence to religious commemorations.
“The absentee rate on the Eid holidays, when they’ve fallen on a school day, haven’t been considerably higher or lower than it is on any other given day,” said Tofig.
School board member Michael Durso disagreed, asserting that schools were effectively closing for religious reasons, while suggesting it was politically incorrect not to also allow a day off for Eid.
“It comes off as insensitive, and I just think we cannot afford to be in that light,” said Durso.
Montgomery schools do offer excused absences for students who miss class due to religious holidays, meaning Muslims are not punished for staying home during Eid.
“They would remove the Christian holidays and they would remove the Jewish holidays from the calendar before they would consider adding the Muslim holiday to the calendar,” complained Zainab Chaudry, also a co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition.
According to the 2010 census, the ethnic makeup of Montgomery County is 49.3% non-Hispanic White, 17.0% Hispanic or Latino, 16.6% black and 13.9% Asian.
“It is unclear how many Muslim students attend Montgomery schools,” reports the Washington Post.