Daniel J.H. Greenwood

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Proposed Religious Holiday and Diversity Protection Policy -- Salt Lake City School District

To Salt Lake City School Board Members Clifford Higbee, Alama Uluave, Doug Nelson, John deJong, Heather Bennett, Laurel Young, Kristi Swett, and Sophie Jin:

Salt Lake School District has children from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Several of these religions and ethnic groups have celebrations, holidays and family obligations that do not necessarily fit with the Protestant-based calendar that is the foundation of the Salt Lake School District school year.

The Salt Lake School District never schedules school on Christmas, Easter or Sundays (and pursuant to Policy JEFB makes special provisions for students to attend Seminary during school hours). In contrast, the District calendar takes no account of Greek Orthodox Christmas, the Jewish High Holidays, Chinese New Year, the Moslem feast of Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, and other important family holidays.

As a result, non-Protestant holidays often fall during the school year on school days.

Children who observe these holidays are required to request special dispensations from ordinary rules regarding missed classes. These dispensations are sometimes denied. As a result, children are penalized for meeting their family obligations:

Therefore, we request that the Salt Lake School District promulgate a policy as follows:

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Religious Holiday and Diversity Protection Policy

Whereas, the Salt Lake School District serves children from many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and

Whereas, differing religions and traditions have different holidays and traditional family celebrations, and

Whereas, the school calendar necessarily conflicts with some traditional calendars, and

Whereas, the school calendar accommodates the largest religious traditions by not meeting or scheduling activities on Christmas, Easter or Sundays, and

Whereas, the American tradition requires respect for religious diversity and upholds freedom of religion and equality before the law, and

Whereas, it is a denial of the equal protection of the laws and a form of religious discrimination to penalize children for observing minority religious holidays so long as the District calendar accommodates the needs of locally larger religions,

Now therefore, it shall be the Policy of the Salt Lake School District, out of respect for family values and our different religious traditions, that:

  1. School calendars distributed to teachers and parents shall include the major religious and ethnic holidays of all groups whose children may need to miss school or need other accommodations to observe those holidays, including at a minimum Orthodox Christmas, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, the Jewish Days of Awe and Passover, Chinese New Year, and such other holidays as members of the district population may celebrate;

  2. Teachers shall minimize, to the degree possible, scheduling extremely important material for those days, and in particular shall avoid scheduling exam preparation and other difficult-to-make-up material on holy days;

  3. Teachers shall avoid or minimize assigning homework during holy days;

  4. Students are entitled to miss school, without being penalized, when necessary to participate in celebrations of their families’ most important religious and ethnic holidays; and

  5. Students are entitled to have individual accommodations made to allow them to participate in these family religious celebrations without detriment to their education or grades, including

    • waivers without grade penalty of inessential assignments,
    • reasonable extensions of due dates on assigned work that is not waived,
    • reasonable opportunities to make up materials missed in class, and
    • other reasonable accommodations as may be appropriate.

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respectfully submitted,

Daniel J.H. Greenwood
December 15, 2005