Calendar Committee Leads to a Cultural Crisis

Samantha Zeid, Page Editor

Every year, students are forced to face morally ambiguous situations when deciding whether or not to miss school for religious reasons. The choice between missing school for personal beliefs and coming to school on a holiday is no different. in that both options cause the student to suffer. Various groups of students struggle with this. For each holiday besides the national days that school is closed, the observing students are forced to accept that they are not enough of a majority for school to be closed. While their absence may not matter in terms of the total number of students attending school, their absence matters to them and to their grade. Missing one day can set any student back behind the furious pace of curriculum at Clayton. No student should be put at a disadvantage for missing school due to a religious reason, yet that it is what is indirectly happening.

Speaking specifically on the Jewish High Holidays, School District of Clayton board member Amy Rubin stated, ““There is not enough absenteeism to shut down the schools, but with respect to specific holidays celebrated and observed by our students, it’s important to allow such observation in a way that does penalize a student for a day missed of school due to observation of a religious holiday.  I do think that…everybody is entitled to celebrate whatever holiday they want to celebrate and I don’t think that you should be penalized in any way for that.”

Though the School District of Clayton’s calendar committee is not in a place where they can cancel school on Rosh HaShanah and/or Yom Kippur, which are the Jewish holidays with the highest level of gravitas, an approximated 72 percent of the surveyed teacher-student combination answered that they would like to have school off on Yom Kippur, and an approximated 74 percent stated that they would like to have school off on either one or two days for Rosh HaShanah. The survey was taken by email and was created to determine the viewpoint of many Clayton teachers and students on the issue. There is a notable emphasis on the fact that non-Jewish students sympathise with the struggle that their peers face due to how behind they become in their classes.

It is understandable that after careful decision the Calendar Committee decided that it doesn’t make sense to close school on these days due to the lack of a large number of absentees. In fact, many of the members of the committee care Jewish and celebrate the High Holidays, yet they thought that it was best for the Clayton population as a whole to not close school on those days. Rubin agreed with this, saying “There just aren’t enough kids to warrant having off school right now. If you asked me as a Jewish person, I would say.. it would be great for the kids to not have to go to school… there just aren’t enough other Jewish people in the district to warrant getting those days off.” The problem with this decision is that when a student does miss school, be it for any religious purpose, they have to suffer because they cannot gain that instruction time back.

Perhaps the solution is not to cancel school on various religious holidays, but at least for teachers to be more sensitive to them. There is such a large emphasis on the curriculum and that there is too much material that needs to be covered to the point where some teachers do not want to — and really cannot — slow down. Students are indirectly being punished because of this, for in some classes no accommodations are made for students missing class due to religious purposes.

While it is understandable that we cannot slow down or cease classes for each respective holiday, or no progress would be made, Clayton needs to be more understanding of the needs of those individual students and how to help them make up lost instructional time.  As a result of our highly competitive academic atmosphere, while Clayton embraces student differences, it doesn’t wait around for them to be acted upon either.  

More and more students are deciding not to observe their holiday because school is too hard to miss. They are forced to abandon many family traditions. Now, instead of encouraging each student’s individual cultural aspects and background, we are becoming numb to them.