In a 7 to 1 vote on Tuesday, a Montgomery County Maryland school board has decided to strike Christian and Jewish holy days from the official 2015-2016 school calendar.
The vote came after Muslim leaders pushed for officials to include Eid al-Adha, an Islamic holiday, to the school schedule, according to the Washington Post.
Muslim leaders requested that Eid al-Adha be added to the list of holy days based on references to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Rather than include the Islamic holy day, Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Starr recommended the mentions of named Jewish holy days simply be removed. The result was all religious names were removed, including Christmas and Easter.
The amendment will not change the days that students have off because absences are high among students and educators on Christian and Jewish holy days and therefore will be granted off.
The new calendar will have no mention of the religious observances by name. School officials have not granted days off for Muslim holy days because there is not enough of an absentee impact to warrant it.
Dana Tofig, public information officer for Montgomery County Public Schools told WRC-TV , “High absenteeism is the main reason. The absentee rate on the Eid holidays, when they’ve fallen on a school day, haven’t been considerably higher or lower than it is on any other given day.”
Islamic leaders are surprised and perplexed by the decision. Saqib Ali, co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, a group advocating for Muslim holidays off, told the Washington Post. “By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality. It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification.”
Since the schools are public, religion has no place in their criteria in the first place. Their argument regarding absenteeism is a valid one and although it is obvious that the decision was made due to the religion in question being Islam, the result was, in the end, more evenly applied. After all, there were never special days cited for any holy days of religions other than Christianity and Judaism, which is in and of itself an exclusionary practice.