School Board members in the Coppell I.S.D. are set to become the first in North Texas to turn down a request to include the Hindu Holy Day of Diwali on the school calendar.
1,800 people signed an online petition to include the Festival of Lights on the 2018-2019 calendar, but neither of the two proposed calendars up for a vote January 22nd include it.
“The question is, whether we really practice the diversity, whether we really embrace diversity, or is it just a hollow slogan,” said Dr. Pankaj Jain, an Associate Professor at the University of North Texas, who has two children attending Coppell schools.
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Coppell I.S.D. notes that any student can take a day off for a religious holiday, in return for a make-up day later, and that Christmas falls during winter break while Good Friday is a professional development or weather day.
More than a dozen Hindu organizations are now circulating similar petitions asking other North Texas school districts to recognize Diwali as a professional development day, including Allen, Frisco, Lewisville, Plano, and Southlake-Carroll.
“North Texas has this opportunity to become a true global place, truly inclusive place, truly where all cultures are treated with respect and equality,” said Dr. Jain, who teaches philosophy and religion at U.N.T.
Here is the statement Coppell I.S.D. sent to NBC 5:
C.I.S.D. is a culturally and religiously diverse community that respects the religious holidays of our students and their families. Any student can request to be absent from school because of a religious holiday or observance, and receive an excused absence. All students who miss school because of an excused absence for a religious observance receive one make-up day for school work for each excused absence.
The Coppell District Educational Improvement Council (DEIC) Calendar Subcommittee, which consisted of district staff, teachers from each school, as well as parents and community representatives, worked to review state requirements, long-held traditions and input from district stakeholders to develop two calendar options for the 2018-2019 school year. Details about these two options can be found at https://www.coppellisd.com/Page/15153.
Making Diwali a C.I.S.D. holiday was discussed in the D.E.I.C. Calendar Subcommittee meetings. In addition, the subcommittee received information about the petition concerning this request, as well as received the input sent to the district via email asking for this holiday. CISD consulted its attorney about the Diwali holiday request. The district’s attorney responded with a brief that stated, “... the Constitution prohibits government action to promote a particular religion, and a school may not close simply to promote the celebration of a religious holy day.” It also stated, “Instead, a district’s decision to close school on a particular day must be made with a clearly secular purpose.”
The CISD Board of Trustees will approve a calendar for 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 at its meeting January 22, 2018. The option selected for 2018-2019 will be duplicated for 2019-2020.
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