For some students in the suburbs of Washington, Christmas -- or at least recognition of it on their school calendars -- has been canceled.
The Montgomery County school board voted Tuesday to eliminate all references to religious holidays on school calendars, beginning in the 2015-16 school year. That includes Christmas and Easter, as well as Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.
The vote came after a recommendation by schools Superintendent Joshua Starr that the board consider removing the names of religious holidays from the calendar in response to a request from Muslim community leaders to give equal billing to their holy day of Eid al-Adha. Starr told MyFoxDC that the county's public schools would still be closed on Christian and Jewish holidays due to the significant number of staff and student absences on those days, but technically not due to any religious observance.
The Washington Post reported that Muslim community leaders urged families to keep students home on Eid al-Adha, hoping that the number of absentees would persuade the school board to close the schools on that day. However, the Post reported that the number of absences were only slightly higher than on a typical school day.
Many Muslim families gathered Tuesday morning before the school board meeting, some carrying signs saying "Because our children matter too." However, many Muslims expressed dismay at the board's ultimate decision.
"By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality," Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition, told the Post. "It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification."
Future school calendars will now list the students' Christmas vacation as "winter break", the Easter vacation as "spring break." Days like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur would simply be marked "no school for students and teachers."