CAIR-FL: Schools Move to End Holidays

Marilyn Brown, Tampa Tribune, 9/7/05

TAMPA – Rather than recognize some religious holidays and not others, Hillsborough schools may drop all of them except the winter break at Christmas.

A proposed calendar for 2006-07 eliminates the October day off for students coinciding with Yom Kippur and the April days off on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Instead, students would get three secular holidays — Feb. 19 for President’s Day, March 16 as the Friday before spring break and April 27, the midpoint between spring break and the end of school.

“This is a fair calendar,” said Ken Otero, the district’s chief of staff designee. “No one can say this favors one religious group over another.”

The group that sparked the change is not pleased.

“It was not our intention to cause anyone to lose their religious holidays,” Ahmed Bedier, Florida spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Wednesday. “This is something we don’t want.”

Bedier and others from the Muslim community made an impassioned plea to the Hillsborough School Board in December for recognition of their holy days. They asked for a nonstudent day on Nov. 4 of this year for students to observe Eid al-Fitr, a holy day marking the end of Ramadan, and that another holy day in January, Eid al-Adha, be noted on teachers’ calendars.

About 30,000 Muslim families live in Hillsborough County, Bedier said, although he doesn’t know how many of their children attend public schools.

District officials contend that no religious holiday is recognized, but some student days out of school have been coordinated with Christian and Jewish holidays.

This school year, for example, the district’s spring break coincides with Good Friday and Easter Monday. Yom Kippur on Oct. 13 was labeled a “nonstudent, nonteacher day.”


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