Thursday, June 22, 2006

School board votes again to exclude Muslim holidays
06/14/06By Louis Llovio

For the third year in a row, the Baltimore County Board of Education approved a calendar for the 2006-07 school year that did not include two Muslim holidays.
Muslims attending the meeting were upset over the setback and vowed to continue fighting after the unanimous school board vote June 13.
At previous board meetings Dr. Bash Pharoan, president of the Baltimore County Muslim Council, has said that if schools close for Jewish holidays then, in the name of equality, schools also should close on Id al- Fitre and Id al-Adha, two Islamic holy days.
As it happens, for the 2006 -07 calendar, schools will close on only one Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana, Sept. 13. Yom Kippur falls on a weekend this year.
School board member John Hayden defended the board's 8-0 decision, citing economic factors as justification for closing schools on Jewish holidays. With the large number of Jewish teachers in the county, the school system closes rather than incur the expense of hiring substitute teachers.
In the coming years, the school system will track attendance on the two Islamic holy days to determine if there is a spike in both student and teacher absences, Hayden said.
At the school board meeting, Stephen Crum, of the Southeast Area Educational Advisory Council, surprised some in attendance by supporting the argument that schools remain open on the Jewish holidays.
Crum said the issue is not about religion but about management.
Principals, he told the school board, should know in advance an approximate number of teachers and students who will be absent on holidays so they can make the necessary arrangements.
Pharoan and several speakers vowed to continue the fight to put the Muslim holidays on the school calendar.
"I will see you here next year," said one Muslim girl, a seventh-grader at Pine Grove Middle School in Carney.
The 2006-07 school year begins Aug. 27 and runs through June 13.
The adopted calendar meets the state requirements of 180 days and 1,170 school hours.

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