Montgomery County Public Schools will remove religious labels from school holidays, but members of the Islamic community say the adjustments to the school calendar do nothing to gain parity and a day off for the Muslim holiday of Eid.
The school board approved the school calendar for the 2015-2016 school year Tuesday. The calendar will no longer reference specific religious holidays but rather state simply that school will be closed on dates that correspond with holidays, such as Eid, Yom Kippur and Christmas.
Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of Equality for Eid, was not happy with the board of education’s action Tuesday.
“Equality is really what we’re looking for,” Ali said. “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 board members said they were sympathetic to the desire to have Eid recognized and close schools but that legal precedent in Maryland bars them from closing for religious purposes.
“We can’t close for religious holidays. We can only close for operational purposes,” like high absenteeism, school spokesman Dana Tofig said.
The adoption of the 2015-2016 school calendar does give students the day off on Eid but only because it happens to fall on another school holiday, Yom Kippur.
Several school board members, Chris Barclay, Judy Docca and Michael Durso, made it clear that they want to see a permanent policy change but that discussion would continue.
Board member Judy Docca acknowledged Tuesday’s action does little to satisfy a community that’s been waiting for years to see a change.
“We’re kicking the can down the road,” Docca said.
But Docca said until the board can find a legal way around the issue, the waiting would continue.
Muslim parents say their children get a clear message from the Montgomery County school system that they are second-class citizens.