The holiest way for schools to mark religious holy days

Photo Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews

The city has decided public schools will close for two important Muslim holidays starting next school year. It’s a major step for equality in NYC’s schools. Christian students have had major holidays off for a long time, and so have Jewish pupils.

Why not Muslims? School closure equality is a great thing, and I’m glad Muslims are being treated the same as Jews and Christians.

It’s about time.

But when it comes to schools closing for religious holidays, we should take a different approach. Public schools should not close for any religious observances. At all.

Why? Because Hindus would want their holy days off. And Buddhists. And Rastafarians. And Pastafarians. If we’re handing school-closure days off to Christians and Jews and Muslims, we need to also hand them out to any religion with a significant population in New York. That’s a cumbersome and difficult task.

And I’m not singling out Muslims. Schools should not be closed for Jewish holy days, either. I don’t want to have to scramble for child care or miss a day of work so everyone can “take the day off” because some people observe Eid, and people shouldn’t have to scramble for child care just because Jewish families like mine celebrate Rosh Hashanah. That’s what happens when schools close. Many people who work can’t go to work because they have to care for children who aren’t in school.

Or, instead of closing schools for religious days, why not let those observant students take a day off from school? Missing a couple of days of school throughout the year is no big deal. As long as education officials are not scheduling a major test or teachers are not starting a new textbook chapter, those kids will be fine.

If a student is absent during a religious day, don’t hold it against him or her on the attendance record.

Everybody in NYC observes something at some point during the year. We can’t shut schools every time someone does, and we can’t favor some religions over others.

Remember, we already have to close schools for snow and hurricanes.

Mother Nature demands school closure equality.

Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican and @ElBloombito.