Ridgewood is home to a community compiled of many different cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Religious inclusivity, however, is something that the Ridgewood education system particularly lacks. It has become increasingly apparent that not all religions—such as Eid, Diwali, and Lunar New Year—are recognized on the Ridgewood calendar.
For the past few months, the Muslim youth of Ridgewood High School have been attending Board of Education meetings and expressing their concerns about receiving days off for their holiday—Eid—while maintaining the fact that the board should factor in other religious holidays as well.
Students are spreading awareness about the issue because it reaches beyond just having a day off of school; it is a day for students to spend with their families without worrying about work that needs to be done. In the past, there have been “no homework” policies, but they are not proven to be effective because students still have some capacity of work to complete. On the other hand, some students take off for the holiday, but are granted an excused absence; however this requires them to catch up on an entire day of school work. In a letter to a Board of Education member, student Elif Saglik expressed his personal experience. “During my freshman year, I couldn’t attend a family gathering due to the fact that I had to come to school and take 2 finals. Last year, I missed a day of school but I had to worry about all the assignments that I had missed that day.” Elif is just one out of many students who voiced their opinion and support for having these holidays off.
Ridgewood’s superintendent, Dr. Daniel Fishbein conducted a study on the issue, and proceeded to send out a survey to 1,926 individuals living in Ridgewood. The survey exhibited that about 35% of students stay home for a holiday which is not currently on the calendar. This seems like a large enough number to consider taking days off the calendar for the coming years. Considering the logistics and concerns from some parents, taking an additional 3 days off of the calendar and distributing them to holidays in no way makes the school year longer.
No matter what, school will be in session for 180 days; it simply depends how days off are delegated throughout the year. Luckily, some holidays fall on weekends, and after careful evaluations of the calendar for the next three years seem to be in the favor of those advocating for these extra days off.
At this point, the students are advocating their feelings of inclusivity. The Muslim, Asian, and and Hindu youth desire nothing more than to feel equal among their peers. The issue reaches far beyond a simple day off of school; it is about spreading awareness and making sure that every student at Ridgewood High School feels like they belong here. At the 2020-2021 calendar meeting, it was established that students will have Lunar New Year, Diwali and Eid off. This just proves how important RHS student voices are in our community.
Graphic: Nicole Kye