Montgomery schools will remain open on Muslim holiday next year -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County students will have school on the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Adha next year, despite recent requests from parents and community leaders to the Board of Education to close school on that day.

The school board passed a calendar for the 2013-2014 school year that holds school on the Eid ul-Adha, after hearing from school system staff that there was not a high absentee rate on the holiday in the past three years.

Eid ul-Adha celebrates sacrifice to God. The date changes with the Islam lunar calendar; recently it has been celebrated in October.

Montgomery County Councilman George L. Leventhal and other community members went to the meeting Tuesday to ask board members to close schools on the day.

Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park told board members that it is an equality issue, and he knows that someday the school board will come to realize that it is the best decision.

“This will occur, probably sooner rather than later,” he said.

The school system will monitor absenteeism on Muslim holidays in future years, according to the school system’s chief operating officer Larry Bowers.

School board members asked staff to develop a set standard for how much absenteeism would dictate schools to be closed.

“For a system that prides itself for inclusivity and diversity, we are in a position to be misinterpreted on this,” said school board member Michael Durso (Dist. 5) of Silver Spring.

The school board received a number of requests through email, letters and conversation asking for the school system to close on Eid ul-Adha, as well as Eid al-Fitr, a feast that has been celebrated in the summer, according to a school board memo. This includes Leventhal, who sent a letter to school leaders in May.

John Mannes, the student member of the board, said Tuesday that he received hundreds of comments on the issue.

Mudusar Raza, the president of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said monitoring absenteeism is not the right way to decide on closures.

Raza, who spoke during the meeting Tuesday, said that in his children’s classrooms, there are many Muslim students who choose to not stay home from school on Muslim holidays because of the work they will miss.

Raza asked the school board to study the Muslim population and to develop a criteria for closings.

The school system recognizes both Muslim high holy days by declaring them nontesting days and giving Muslim students excused absences.

County schools are closed on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas Eve and Christmas, Good Friday, the day after Easter and other nonreligious holidays.

State law requires the Christian holiday closures. The county school system requires the Jewish high holy day closures.