The Religion of the School Calendar

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Traditional Rosh Hashanah food and shofar (myjewishlearning)

Traditional Rosh Hashanah food and shofar (myjewishlearning)

Traditional Rosh Hashanah food and shofar (myjewishlearning)

Stephanie Robinson, Contributing Writer

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As winter begins to slowly creep into New England, and the year comes to a close, storefronts across the country erupt into holiday spectacles.

One can find bright, colorful lights, Santas, and Christmas trees in every direction. For high schoolers, these weeks signify the coming of winter break, a whole eleven days without classes, and for many, a time of important religious observation.

However, despite the holiday cheer, others are left neglected.

This year Hingham High School’s winter break spans from December 23 to January 2. In other words, the break lasts fromthe day before Christmas Eve until the day after New Year’s Day. It makes sense to measure the break in terms of holidays; after all, school begins the day after Labor Day every year.

However, when closely viewed, the dates become more problematic. Hingham High’s winter break is planned around Christmas, and later, in the spring, there is no school on Good Friday, a Christian holy day of obligation. Yet, not all students at Hingham High School celebrate these holidays.

Including Christian holidays into break schedules is not in itself a bad thing. But, by not recognizing or respecting students who participate in other religions, the school sends a message about which religion it prioritizes.

Junior Rachel Ader expressed her valid frustration with this, explaining that “lots of Jewish holidays don’t have school off”  and that “not all teachers are tolerant when Jewish or not-Christian kids have holidays, and [teachers] still assign lots of homework.”

Although the administration instructs teachers to not assign homework during several Jewish holy days, like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, students can attest that often teachers still assign large amounts of work.

A different student, who wished to remain anonymous, said, in defense of teachers, “A lot of them aren’t trying to be intolerant or anything, they just want to stay with their schedules.”

However, if Jewish holy days were school holidays, then teachers would not struggle with balancing the class with homework, or catching up Jewish students who fell behind. Christian students do not face the problem of choosing between their religion and their school work in the way that Jewish students do. Most importantly, the school would make it clear that is supports Jewish members of the community by giving them equal time that they need to celebrate.

Unfortunately, the problem extends past Jewish holidays as well. Hingham Public Schools do not officially recognize any non-Christian religious holiday. Most significantly, the school does not recognize major Muslim holidays like Eid al-Adha, or Eid al-Fitr, two very important celebrations within Islam. Other school districts took initiative in supporting non-Christian student. According to CNN, New York City public schools made Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr school holidays as of the 2016-17 school year.

The Hingham Public Schools calendar is created by the Hingham School Committee annually in May. The only requirements are a state commanded number of hours of school time, and that the committee “take into consideration the possibility of days for emergency closings throughout the year,” as outlined by the Hingham School Committee Handbook. The requirements are wide, and give the Committee a great deal of flexibility.

For example, one possible avenue the school could take to ensure equal treatment of students of all religions would be to create a school holiday during a Jewish, Muslim, or other non-Christian day of obligation. The school could take the day off away from Columbus Day, a controversial holiday. Even though the Hingham Schools district does allow non-Christian students to have excused absences for religious holidays, there is more that can be done to ensure the equal recognition of each and every faith celebrated by Hingham students.

Regardless of the change or lack thereof that the School Committee institutes, one thing is clear. Hingham decisively bases its calendars with only Christian students in mind, disregarding students of other faiths.

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Religion of the School Calendar”

  1. Hayli Manning on January 3rd, 2018 2:48 pm

    Hello! I have a question. Although I agree that it is clear the Higham High school system prioritizes Christian holidays, I am curious to know the percentages of the student body that identify as non-Christian.

    Not that their opinions matter less! It might just be a fact that will add depth to your argument.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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