Bash Pharoan, head of the Baltimore County Muslim Council, has been demanding the school board to recognize two Islamic feasts since 2004. The school calendar includes a holiday for the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. All schools close for Christian holidays Christmas and Easter.
"The main issue is that the ad hoc committee failed again to recognize that the issue is about equality," he said. "This is not really about perfect attendance, this is about equal treatment," he added. State rules already consider religious observance a "lawful absence", along with illness or death of a family member.
But the committee wants the county school system to petition the State Board of Education to change its regulations so "religious observance would not mar a student's official attendance record nor prevent any student from obtaining perfect attendance". Committee Chairman Luis E Borunda said: "currently they are penalized de facto by the fact that their record indicates an excused absence."
A state steering committee on minority achievement made a similar recommendation to the state board in 2004. William Reinhard, spokesman for the State Department of Education, said that individual school districts set their own policies for recognizing perfect attendance. Board members will examine the recommendations this week. If there is consensus, the recommendations will be sent up for approval.
The committee's recommendations include: the recognition of Muslim holidays Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha on the calendar, avoiding the scheduling of exams on the two Muslim holidays, demanding the superintendent to educate the county's students on the significance of these holidays, and having the superintendent monitor attendance at schools in areas where Muslims live.
Source: Daily Times