NEW JERSEY: In its recently adopted resolution – “The List of Religious Holidays Permitting Student Absence from School” – New Jersey State Board of Education (NJSBE) has listed 19 Hindu festivals. It included four festivals in October itself, including Navaratri, which alone is listed for ten days.
This “list of religious holidays on which it shall be mandatory to excuse a student”, includes the Hindu festivals of Guru Purnima, Naga Panchami, Raksha Bandhan, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesha Chaturthi, Onam, Navaratri, Dussehra, Diwali, Goverdhan Puja, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Vasant Panchami, Maha Shivaratri, Holi, Chandramana Yugadi, Souramana Yugadi, Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti.
It was heartening that the Board decision follows a request earlier by the Universal Society of Hinduism which had urged to include five festivals on the list and these holidays are part of this list. Rajan Zed, the Society President, thanked NJSBE and its President Mark W. Mark Biedron for being inclusive.
According to the NJSBE resolution: “Any student absent from school because of a religious holiday may not be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award because of such absence.”
“Students who miss a test or examination because of absence on a religious holiday must be given the right to take an alternate test or examination.”
“Boards of education, at their discretion, may add other days to the list for the schools of their districts”, and “Any absence because of a religious holiday must be recorded…as an excused absence”.
The NJSBE, which meets monthly in Trenton, “adopts the administrative code, which sets the rules needed to implement state education law. Such rules cover the supervision and governance of the state’s 2,500 public schools, which serve 1.38 million students”.
Joseph Fisicaro and Diane Shoener are Vice President and Director respectively of NJSBE; David C. Hespe is Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Education; and Chris Christie is the New Jersey Governor.