Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Anchorage School District Caves In To Political Correctness - School Board Votes To Add Jewish And Muslim Religious Holidays

On Monday August 28th, 2007, the Anchorage School Board approved without discussion a new list of official religious holidays and directed that, starting next year, no after-school activities be scheduled to conflict with them. "Without discussion" means no one bothered to show up to offer testimony one way or the other, and board members chose to go for an immediate vote. However, a district spokesperson told Anchorage Daily News that the issue had been discussed in previous school board meetings within the context of other issues. Full story published in the Anchorage Daily News.

The board voted to add the Jewish holy days of Passover, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to the list, as well as the Muslim holy days of Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. The previous list included New Year’s Day, Orthodox Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Orthodox Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

It includes a phase-in procedure that allows exceptions to be made for this school year only for events already scheduled that cannot be easily moved. The change, meant to increase awareness of the school district’s diverse population and clarify the district’s intent regarding “dates of cultural significance,” will go into effect with the winter activities season, according to the district.

The catalyst behind this move was a complaint aired by a Jewish student from South Anchorage High School back in June 2007. He found out that a district cross-country meet in which he wanted to participate would fall on Yom Kippur, which Jews observe as a day of atonement and is considered solemn. He recommended that the district not schedule athletic events on Jewish holidays (he expressed no concern about other holidays, though). The school board decided not to act on his request at that time, although Superintendent Carol Comeau was quite sympathetic and has long advocated that non-Christian religious holidays also be observed. There were no known Muslim complaints.

However, in the interim between then and now, the school board apparently developed a unified consensus in favor of Comeau's suggestion, so when it came up on the agenda during the August 27th meeting, with no memebers of the public signed up to give testimony, they forswore discussion and held an immediate vote.

Analysis: Bad move. We have a Buddhist community in Anchorage. What happens if they decide the district should give them a religious holiday as well, and the district refuses? Why, they'd probably run crying to ASD's legal nemesis Dennis Maloney and get him to sue. Then that would throw the door wide open for any other group, regardless of size or influence. By the time each group had their religious holidays included, what time would be left over for extracurricular activities?

And get this. With the accomodation of Muslim holidays, what's to stop Muslim students from demanding the district start accomodating their daily religious practices as well? Like, for example, letting them out of class to say their daily prayers? Or installing footbaths so they can perform their ablutions? If our society wasn't so legalistic, I wouldn't be so concerned. But people sue at the drop of a hat in America; you can spill coffee on yourself and get McDonald's to pay you $800,000.

The better solution would have been to drop the blatantly religious holidays of Orthodox Christmas, Easter, and Orthodox Easter. Then adjust attendance procedure so that those students who still wanted to take those days off be credited with an excused absence. Better yet, establish a district-wide policy where all students could be entitled to five excused absences per year for any purpose, and they could take the days off at their discretion by giving prior notice. This would accomodate them informally without setting a dangerous precedent. And no, Christmas is no longer a religious holiday, even though some use it for religious purposes. Don't believe me. On the Sunday before Christmas, I guarantee you it'll be easier to find a parking spot at Anchorage Baptist Temple than at the Dimond Mall.

Too bad the Anchorage School District decided to surrender to the forces of political correctness.

1 comment:

  1. If the Congress of 1870 hadn't broken the law and made Christmas a Federal Holiday we wouldn't have this problem. The old coots knew they could get by with this BS because no one would fight it back then.
    Don't you agree?