A string of red plastic lanterns adorns preschool classroom 138 at Harnew School, hung by a Muslim student to share an Arab tradition during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

“They signify light and a time of being neighborly, respectful and reaching out to help,” teacher Kathy Montesano explained to students during circle time on the carpet.

The peaceful lesson was a contrast to an uproar that divided parents for weeks this fall after a Muslim parent in the 2,100-student district just outside Chicago asked to hang lights featuring crescent moons and stars — and the school board responded by considering a ban on celebrating religious holidays.

Hundreds of people showed up at school board meetings. Some complained about the loss of Santa and claimed Muslims were being demanding. A non-Muslim parent yelled ethnic slurs. Police were called. And the woman whose request sparked the controversy said she was threatened with violence.

But earlier this month, Ridgeland School District 122 — where 30 percent of students are Muslim — made an uncommon compromise: It would add Ramadan to a list of approved holidays, along with Christmas and Halloween. (MORE)


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