The Waterbury Board of Education is taking up the topic of school holidays and considering whether to allow students to spend Muslim holy days with their families at home.
"Our school board takes pride in the fact that we are very sensitive to all the needs of our students, and we have a diverse population, and that population deserves to have their culture represented and respected," said Waterbury Board of Education President Charles Stango.
The topic came up when the Muslim community started a petition asking the Board of Education to recognize two Muslim holidays on the school calendar. The petition doesn’t ask for schools to be closed, but asks teachers and staff to give consideration to students celebrating the Muslim holidays.
"So that the Muslim students, who come to our school system, would not be subjected to tests that were scheduled on their holidays, standardized tests, or field trips or plays or concerts, so that they could miss school with excused absences," Stango explained.
There’s no public comment at the Thursday Board of Education workshop. However, parents in Waterbury have said they agree with the petition and believe Muslim students should be given the same consideration as students of other faiths.
"Everybody is celebrating their own day for what the celebrate, you know?" said Waterbury resident Dottie James.
Parents also said students shouldn’t be penalized for staying home to attend prayers and spend time with family on holy days.
"I think they should stay home with their families and I think the school, the Board of Education, should excuse them, not leave it as an unexcused absence," said Mary Romaine, of Waterbury.
Stango said he'll suggest that the school superintendent send a memo to staff at the beginning of the year to inform teachers of all religious holidays. The Muslim students who need to miss class for those holidays would be given an excused absence.