All schools in Montgomery County Maryland will have no religiously named holidays on their school calendars for the 2015-16 school year after a request for inclusion by Muslim activists was denied.
Muslim community leaders have been asking Montgomery school officials for years to close schools for at least one of the two major Muslim holidays.
It is unclear how many Muslim students attend Montgomery schools, but in 2013, Muslim community leaders urged Muslim families and their supporters to keep students home for Eid al-Adha, hoping that the number of absentees would be persuasive as they made their case for a school closing. Montgomery school officials reported that absences for that day — 5.6 percent of students and 5 percent of teachers — were only somewhat higher than a comparable day the previous week.
In response, Montgomery’s Board of Education voted 7 to 1 Tuesday to eliminate references to all religious holidays including Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.
But Tuesday’s outcome was not at all what Muslim leaders intended. They called the decision a surprise — and a glaring mistake.
“By stripping the names Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have alienated other communities now, and we are no closer to equality,” said Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of the Equality for Eid Coalition. “It’s a pretty drastic step, and they did it without any public notification.”