Throughout the last few years, the Ridgewood student body has made significant strides to increase awareness of the diverse demographics in the Ridgewood public school district. However, with certain anonymous Instagram accounts revealing cases of prejudice at Ridgewood High School, it has become apparent that our fellow classmates have experienced prejudice and insensitivity due to their religious background. This is a result of a lack of exposure and consideration to those practicing various faiths.
The BestPlaces breakdown of the religious demographics within the town reveals that about 65.1% of Ridgewood’s population is religious, with 49.6% of the population being Catholic. Only about 4.3% of the population practice Judaism, 0.9% practice an eastern faith, and less than 0.5% practice Islam.
Yet, there are still students at Ridgewood High School who practice these uncommon religions, such as Megan Dutt, who practices Hinduism, and Melike Yesil, a practicing Muslim. They explain that although RHS is making an effort to make the environment more accommodating for students who practice any religion, there is still work to be done to make school more equitable.
Yesil, currently facing the grueling junior year, explains that “RHS is beginning to give days off for religious holidays that previously went overlooked.” She furthers that “not having school, or any homework on Eid is a great opportunity to spend time with family and feel more connected to my culture.”
Dutt, a junior at RHS, points out that teachers could do a better job with accommodating students who fast for religious reasons, as P. E. teachers tend to stubbornly tell students to “try their best” on run days, even when the student can not drink water or eat until sundown.
When it comes to the school’s curriculum and celebrations of various cultures, Yesil explains that she enjoys “learning about the religions that [her] friends and classmates practice and…about other customs from [her] peers.” At RHS, there are various clubs celebrating the diversity within the school, such as the Coexist Club. However, this type of beneficial convergence can be further integrated into academics.
Dutt believes that the classroom curriculum could, and should, be expanded to encompass a larger variety of faiths, as she explains that the “curriculum does not teach Hinduism at all,” and that “teachers just mention the caste system and move onto the next topic.” She proposes that the school might benefit from including a required course that teaches the history of religion to increase inclusivity within the student body.
This sort of academic integration would help to expose students to the true nature of the various religions practiced at RHS, and might go a long way to improve the hospitality towards many religious students. In order to fully embrace the “tradition of excellence” that Ridgewood High School values most, it is crucial for work to be done to accommodate those who practice different faiths in order to achieve an accessible and welcoming environment for all students.
Graphic: High Times