FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The Florida chapter of a well known Muslim organization is asking the Broward School Board’s diversity committee to consider adding two Islamic holidays to the school calendar.
At a meeting Thursday night, members of the Council on American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, asked that Eid al-Fitr – the end of Ramadan – and Eid-al Adha, which marks the end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, be considered holidays for Muslim students.
If approved, Broward County would be the first school district in Florida, and one of only a few in the country to add the holidays, which would fall on different days every year, depending on the calendar.
The group acknowledges that observing students are granted excused absences for the holidays, but some teachers and administrators aren’t sensitive to the families’ needs.
“There may be test schedules. Sometimes FCAT falls in the time of the religious holidays,” said Ghazala Salam, community relations director for CAIR Florida. “So it really puts a lot of stress on students. They’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Do they stay out for the religious holiday if they have an exam or a new lesson?”
Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie said state law states students must not be penalized for missing school due to religious reasons.
“We make accommodations, but we may not be able to close the district,” Runcie said. “If we do that for everybody and every cause out there, even though they’re all valid, we would literally have a problem squeezing in the number of instructional days we need.”
Critics of the proposal worry the request could open up the floodgates for more holiday requests. Supporters say they the Muslim holidays should be treated like Christian or Jewish holidays, which Broward County schools generally closed for.
Source: The South Florida Sun-Sentinel