The End of Religious School Holidays?

What Is Appropriate?

In many parts of the country, students are off for the Jewish holidays Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. And unlike Hillsborough County, many schools still give days off for Good Friday and the day after Easter Sunday. These days occasionally fall within Spring Break as well.

It's not the first time Good Friday has been on the cutting block.

In 1999, Judith Koenick, a former public school teacher, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education in Montgomery County, Md. She alleged that the public school holidays for Good Friday and the Monday after Easter were unconstitutional. She said that having these days as school holidays singled out a Christian holiday for special treatment.

A Maryland district court ruled against Koenick, saying that a secular reason existed in closing schools on those days, when so many students would be absent.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take on a case concerning public school displays using religious symbols.

The case of Skoros vs. City of New York looks at whether the public schools in New York City promote Judaism and Islam without offering the same promotion to Christianity.

New York City schools allow the Jewish menorah and Muslim star and crescent in holiday displays, but not Christian nativity scenes. Instead, the symbol for Christmas is an evergreen tree.

Andrea Skoros filed the suit in 2002, after seeing what she felt was a slight on the Christian faith. But with the Supreme Court refusing to take on her case, the "war on Christmas" and the struggle over what to do with holidays in public schools will undoubtedly continue each year.

For now, Hillsborough County is pleased with its calendar for the next school year.

"We still approach the school calendar as a way to get kids in class and get them out by late June. We aim to get 184 days of instruction in before we run out of time," Hegarty said.

As more religions and cultures are represented in this country each year, the education sector is a place where the struggle between respecting religion and maintaining political correctness is bound to continue.

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