Recently the question of religious holidays being celebrated as breaks during school has been discussed by students and parents of different ethnicities and cultures. Why can’t they be celebrated?  Why are only specific holidays celebrated? Read along as two students, Amani Anderson and Thanh Do, argue the pros and cons…

Thanh: Days off for religious breaks are needed in schools where a major percentage of attendants are absent due to their religion so that teachers and students don’t have to worry about making up work when coming back. Omar Sacirbey writes in Religion News Service “When she was in eighth grade, [Hannah] Shraim’s teacher scheduled a math test on Eid al-Adha, despite guidelines by the Montgomery County school board that teachers not schedule tests on religious holidays. She had to skip the holiday in order to take the test.”

Amani: However, American public schools are not constitutionally allowed to close to accomodate any religious need in Mcollum v. Board of Education. Separation of Church and State is one of the founding principles of the nation. According to Lee v. Weisman schools are not allowed to permit any religious figure to preach nor pray during school hours. Also, in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971) it was found to be a violation to the Establishment Clause for church-related elementary and secondary schools to receive aid from religious organizations.

T: It’s true that church and state may not mingle, but breaks for religious holidays are not sponsoring the religious practice, they are only letting people off on that day. The Supreme Court rules that schools may not sponsor religious holidays/practices in Engel v. Vitale, 1962 and Abington v. Schempp, 1963. Schools will not be actively persuading students and staff to practice the holiday, but to acknowledge that many in the school who observe the holiday should not stress about schoolwork during that time. Florey v. Sioux Falls School District, 8th Cir., 1980 states that schools may provide secular instruction about religions rather than promote it.

A: Another reason why religious holidays should not be assimilated into the scholastic schedule is because students who don’t celebrate those holidays will be doing nothing when they can be at school learning therefore because of others’ religions, they’ll have to delay their education.

T: Those who aren’t a part of the observed holiday do not have to/are not forced to participate in it. The holiday can be a day for a break such as other american holidays like Presidents’ Day– where students should be in school but are not. Presidents’ Day is meant to praise the presidents, but it is not mandatory. Holidays for some religions, however, are mandatory for those who practice it.

A: But if schools do accommodate to religious holidays, the school year will be pushed into summer because of all the breaks, leaving less room for family vacations. The break will be a time when both parents and students may share time together, unlike on the weekends or a random day in the middle of the week when not every family member is available.

T: If schools do not acknowledge religious holidays and allow religious absences, most will not have their religion recognized and therefore it’ll marginalize students’ personal identity.

A: There are so many diverse holidays, there will be too many to celebrate in the year; students will not be focused on their work because they have been on break for so long/often. Schoolwork can help enhance the student’s grade and therefore can help determine the success of his or her scholastic experience.

T: That depends on the student and the same argument can be implanted on Summer Break as well. Some students come back prepared but others do not.

A: But what about the amount of work it takes to reschedule the school schedule? Not every teacher will have the convenience of making sure their friends and family are available on the religious breaks. Many students will be confused and some students do not have the resources to know when the break(s) will be.

T: Change will come step by step and hard work is important to achieve diversity and diversity is important no matter whatever the case is. There is a lot of work to abolish a lot of non-inclusive things (such as the 14th amendment) but it will be worth it so that groups and cultures are respected and/or represented. The new holidays will be like days when inclimate weather takes over. Students will check online or on tv and if they end up going to school because they don’t have the resource, they will find a notice on a bulletin board at the front door.

Religious holidays during school is a controversial topic, however steps are being taken to either approve or disprove its role in a student’s scholastic schedule. Every point is important in confirming the decision. Most are not able to ignore its existence and impact on students and staff, hence the officials who are able to determine the final outcome should perform immediately.