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School District Bans Christmas, Easter and Jewish Holidays From Calendar Following Debate Over Muslim Request

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"They have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality."

A school board in Montgomery County, Maryland, has voted to strike Christian and Jewish holidays from the official school calendar next year.

The 7 to 1 vote that was taken Tuesday afternoon to ax all religious holidays from the Montgomery County Schools 2015-2016 calendar came after Muslim leaders urged officials to add Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday, to the school schedule, according to the Washington Post.

The initial battle to add Eid al-Adha reportedly centered around references to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and a quest for equality on the calendar.

While Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Starr recommended that these mentions simply be removed, Christmas and Easter ended up being thrown out as well.

These amendments, though, don't change the days students actually have off, as absences are high on Christian and Jewish holidays and the days will, thus, still be granted off.

The new calendar will simply not mention these religious observances by name. As for Muslim holidays, officials said there isn't enough of a student and faculty absentee impact to grant them, WRC-TV reported.

"High absenteeism is the main reason," Dana Tofig, public information officer for Montgomery County Public Schools, told the outlet. "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."

While the decision to remove religious holidays came at the unsuccessful urging of Muslim leaders to add their day to the official school calendar, some Islamic leaders are perplexed, surprised and disenchanted.

"By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality," Saqib Ali, co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, a group advocating for Muslim holidays off, told the Post. "It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification."

The addition of Eid al-Adha wouldn't have changed the 2015-2016 school calendar, as Jewish students already have the day off for Yom Kippur; Muslims said they simply wanted their holiday officially added to the calendar as well.

Read more about the story here.

(H/T: Washington Post)

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Front page image via Shutterstock.com

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