Friday, November 26, 2004
Celebrating religious holidays: Carlisle School Committee looks at homework policy
Religious holidays were first on the agenda for the Carlisle School Committee on November 17. Carlisle parent Terry Golson sent a letter to School Committee chair Nicole Burkel requesting "the school adopt a formal policy towards the [Jewish] High Holy Days." Golson, attending the meeting, noted there seems to be an informal policy in place. She said the day before Rosh Hashanah her son's teacher "casually, verbally, mentioned in class" that students would have extra time for homework and wouldn't miss any quizzes.
The board agreed that there is an informal policy currently in place. Golson explained how concerned her son was at not knowing in advance that there was an "easing of homework" policy. "I would prefer it like Brookline," she said, "a day of low attendance."
Superintendent Marie Doyle noted that an official policy would help educate students and teachers about different religions. "Christmas is always off," replied Golson. "You always pretend that it is a secular holiday but it is not."
Official policy proposed
The committee discussed offering an official no-homework policy for selected religious holidays. "It is a very appropriate request," responded committee member Michael Fitzgerald. "I am saying let's address it for all religions." All students should be allowed to take advantage of this policy, not just one student, he added. "We need a general policy that does not pick one religion," said committee member Wendell Sykes. The committee discussed placing Christian, Jewish, and Muslim holidays on the school calendar. "And Kwanzaa," added Fitzgerald. But the question arose as to the method of choosing which holidays are "high holy" days for which religion. Sykes pointed out not all religions call the days "high holy" so another term should be used. "Maybe we could get a proposal from the Diversity Task Force," said committee member David Dockterman. The committee determined the next holiday was the Christian Good Friday.
How to pick holidays
A week later, Doyle further explained the proposed holiday policy. The list of holidays would be determined by the school administration and not parent-driven, she said. "We'll use the Anti-Defamation League as our guide," she explained. She said just a small portion of known holidays would be cited as no homework days. Avoiding major disruptions would be important. The needs of the community will be considered when holidays are chosen. These holidays are "huge life events," she added, "and we should be sensitive to that."
© 2004 The