Oh give me a (Christmas) break!

Are end of the year breaks unfair to certain religions?

Are end of the year breaks unfair to certain religions?

It’s the end of exams and students are rushing home, exited to enjoy the freedom of the upcoming two week break. All around students are hugging each other and wishing each other “Merry Christmas”.

Because Oakwood is a public school, teachers and administrators must be careful to use non-denominational phrases so that students of different religions do not feel prejudiced or discriminated against. However, this may end up happening anyway.

Even though the two week break at the end of December is used so that students can celebrate Christmas, the break is still referred to as ‘Holiday Break’.

For the students that attend Oakwood schools who are not Christian or do not celebrate Christmas, namely the Jewish Oakwood community, the time given for ‘Holiday Break’ becomes quite controversial.

Take Hanukkah for example. This celebration of lights at the end of the year last for an entire week and Jewish students often have to attend school sometime during those days of celebration.

How is it fair to give two weeks off from school for a holiday that only lasts one day, and give no time off for a holiday that lasts an entire week?

The argument can be made that it would simply be impractical for the school to give an entire week off with respect to Hanukkah and then couple it with two weeks off for Christmas, but by not letting the Jewish students observe their holiday without the burden of school work is discriminatory towards their religion. In doing this, the administration is implying that Judaism, and all other religions, are less important that Christianity.

As harsh as that statement may be, it speaks a truth about Oakwood schools and all public schools in general. Public schools are not technically allowed to favor any specific religion over another, they must either chose to acknowledge all religions and religious days, or none at all.

The fact of the matter is, that even if the school was to give extra days off school to students in order to celebrate different religions, there would still be people who would say that the school was being unfair towards their religion, favoring one over another.

The entire religion controversy for public schools becomes a major issue in general, regardless of end of the year holiday. How should schools be able to tell if they are unfairly favoring a certain religion over another? How lenient should schools be in allowing time off for religious observance days?

In the end, the school must decide what it sees as a fair trade between the students academic life and their religious life, without being prejudice towards others in the process, and they must also be prepared defend their decision against those who are not satisfied by their decision.

By Sarah Reymann

reymann.sarah@oakwoodschools.org

 

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