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Diwali Should Be a School Holiday, Residents Say

About 50 come to school board meeting to lobby for calendar change.

About 50 township residents came to Monday’s Board of Education meeting to ask the district to include Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, as an official school holiday.

The request came as the board approved the calendar for the 2013-14 school year.

Diwali won’t be an issue for that school year because the holiday falls on Nov. 3, a Sunday in 2013.

But the question returns in 2014 when Diwali falls on a Thursday (Oct. 23) and in 2015 when the holiday is on Nov. 11 (a Wednesday), which is also Veterans Day.

According to the 2010 Census, the number of Indian-Americans in Hillsborough more than doubled from the 2000 Census, from 1,038 in 2000 to 2,237 in 2010, a 115.5 percent increase. The group makes up close to 6 percent of the township’s total population of 38,303.

Several members of the community spoke to the board about the importance of the holiday.

“Imagine it’s Christmas morning and after you open your presents, you have to drop everything and go to school,” said Nostrand Road resident Narenda Soman. “That’s how my kids feel.”

Another resident said Diwali was like “New Year’s Eve for us. Imagine not having New Year’s Day off.”

“We hear you,” board President Thomas Kinst told the residents.

Though the state Department of Education includes Diwali on its list of recognized holidays, few New Jersey school districts have designated it as a holiday. Passaic and South Brunswick have Diwali as a school holiday and residents in Bernards and New Brunswick have asked school officials to make Diwali a school holiday.

Diwali is the most important holiday of the year in India. The Festival of Lights gets its name from the row of clay lamps that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness.

Superintendent of Schools Jorden Schiff said the state requirement of fitting 180 days of school between Sept. 1 and June 30 is the most important component of creating the annual school calendar.

“We cannot close school for every recognized holiday,” Schiff said.

Because some of the school district is not air-conditioned, Schiff said, the school year should end before heat becomes an issue. The school district also has to include five staff development days into the calendar, he said.

For instance, in the 2013-14 school year, there will be only 10 full days of school because of the Thanksgiving holidays, the New Jersey Education Association convention, three staff development days and partial days for parent-teacher conferences.

The 2013-14 school year will begin on Friday, Sept. 6, because the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday, Sept. 5.

The last day of the school year will be Thursday, June 19.

Officials are still developing the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school calendars.

ed October 25, 2012 at 03:06 PM
"in the 2013-14 school year, there will be only 10 full days of school". Wow, that's a short school year! Oh, maybe they were referring to November.....
Mark October 25, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I am starting a petition to have Festivus added to the calendar as well. Why not add more holidays and we can have school all year round. (note the sarcasm!!)
Mark October 25, 2012 at 03:35 PM
.............and avoid having us parents have to take more time off work if our children are home. I don't see this being recognizing this as a Federal Holiday.
Harry Lefferts October 25, 2012 at 03:36 PM
It is a Hindu celebration, so it is religious. Why do we have off for Christmas again? Because it is a Holiday in the North Pole or something? No, it is because we have to allow for a significant number of the population to observe a religious holiday. When that number reaches a certain threshold, it is best to just shut down for the day rather than disrupt schedules.
Harry Lefferts October 25, 2012 at 03:39 PM
And I'm not saying we've reached that threshold, but it just makes sense.
Mimi Chu October 25, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I think MT has the right idea....give parents a said number of days to take their kids out of school for religious holidays and that's that. It is unfair to designate days off for some religions and not for others, regardless of how many people observe those holidays. It really is discrimination to recognize some faiths and not others.
Rich Lane October 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Freedom of religion doesn't mean imposing it on others, it's a festival, not a mark of a holy event. I have no problem giving students 3 days to pick as "health" or religous days and then limiting the days off for sickness. As long as they meet state standards for days in school all should be happy.
David Wald October 25, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I am with Mark on this. Let's include Festivus as it is for the rest of us. I also want the kids to have off on Jerry's Seinfeld's birthday and every day that the Yankees are playing in the world series.
watchful one October 25, 2012 at 07:40 PM
State law allows students to miss school for as many legitimate religious holidays as they need - it is an excused absence. Teachers are not to give tests on those days, and students are not penalized for making up work late. There are well over 100 state recognized religious holidays.
Charlie's Mom October 25, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Charlie's Mom- Thank goodness we live in a country where everyone can express there personal beliefs and views. With that said, as a parent/guardian of a child in a public school it is your choice to decide if you want to send your child to school. Furthermore we simply cannot observe every holiday then the children would never be in school. If your holiday is not being observed then you as the adult make the decision to keep your child home and observe your holiday. Not to impose your religious beliefs on the masses. This is AMERICA, where we have freedom to make these choices and decisions. I hope if your truly that religious and your “observing” your holiday that you are doing just that and you are not out shopping or at an amusement park, that would defeat the purpose don’t you think!
deshpak October 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM
TROLL ALERT (yes all CAPS is like shouting I know)
MT October 26, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Well said.
deshpak October 26, 2012 at 12:36 AM
So I guess in the spirit of separating church and state and not wanting to "impose your religious beliefs on the masses", you would support eliminating all religious holiday's from the school calendar. Sounds like a plan. Where do I sign up. In addition, we can do away with the convention for teachers during the school year and they as adults can have it in the summer and we gain even more days for our kids to learn in school.
MT October 26, 2012 at 01:17 AM
@ deshpak, The 'separation of church and state' was created by the founding fathers of America to prevent the government from having any control over the churches. It wasnt to keep religion out of school.
deshpak October 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM
@MT Thank you for your Cliff Notes simplistic interpretation of the First Amendment but I beg to differ. More specifically in Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists he made clear that the purpose of the First Amendment was to establish a "wall of separation" between Church and State in order to protect individuals' right of conscience. There has been much debate over the years in the public and in our courts on on how this applies in our present lives. My interpretation, taking into account the views of Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen, is that any public (government run) entity (public schools meet this criteria) should be separated from religion so as not to inhibit or favor specific religions. Therefore I stand by my previous post about not favoring any religion based school holiday. Let that practice stay with the individual to do as he/she pleases.
deshpak October 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM
The topic of Separation of Church and State has obviously become a hot one in America as the makeup of this country evolves. It has been obvious that this is a topic that many of us citizens feel strongly about, and it's obvious, therefore, that this is a topic which merits some real rational debate. [Something I don't feel can be conducted on a blog.] A rational debate can only take place if all those involved are educated and knowledgeable about the topic being debated, and unfortunately neither the majority of our citizens nor our public officials are presenting an honest and factual case about the facts that are in question. So it is understandable the knee jerk reactionary comments we are seeing here.
MT October 26, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Good morning deshpak I see you have done some research, lol. You are right that this topic has had much debate over the years. But since there is no londer any religion in schools why would we even consider adding this holiday ( back to topic)? We are not allowed to say "Christmas break" anymore we must say "Winter break". So what title would we give to Diwali to make sure it wouldnt be seen as "religious" if we did have it off from school? So we go back to maybe there should be no "holidays" or we all just set our own.
Laura Madsen October 26, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I think that the children have plenty of time off from school during the school year for whatever the reason. Summer vacation doesn't start until almost the 4th of July anyway. I do think that there should be some more uniformity nationwide in the holidays that are recognized for time off in schools. I'll give you an example: while many children have off for Martin Luther King Day in NJ, there are other states and towns in the U.S. that have schools which do not give time off for that. There really doesn't seem to be a strict rhyme or reason across the board for what holidays students are given time off for and for which ones they are not. That's part of the problem when someone wants to introduce the idea of adding one more to the list.
Steve October 26, 2012 at 06:31 PM
This has less to do with religion and more to do with when the majority of kids will be pulled out of school for what ever reason. For example in some school districts in some states the first day of hunting is a day off. So leave it up to the local school districts to say when to have a day off due to low attendance in their schools. The idea of having a few floating holidays for kids is a good one, where they have an excused absent and can make up any test, etc. Companies have been doing the floating holidays for years now to accommodate people who want to observe their holidays.
shari October 26, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Charlie's Mom- Deshpak to be honets I think the current observed "holidays" are just fine, no need to add additional hoildays. I think you are missing the point. It really has nothing to do with church and state. Although I will give you credit for your knowledge or at the very least your ability to google information and para phrase. What it has to do with is that this a public school, we are governed by many laws. If we were to meet everyone's requests the children simply would not be in school. There were many years when the "masses" holidays were not observed. It bothers me that we are being asked to consider allowing another holiday to be included into the schedule when this holiday accounts for only for 6% of the Hillsborough population. Bascially Keep your child or children home to observe your holiday. Let's move on an discuss real issues: Lack of Jobs, the impending presidential election, lack of values and morals the list goes on and on... Did you know we are still in a war and that we loss service men and women every day so you and I can speak freely about this topic.What is more disturbing is that in some public schools children no longer say the pledge of allegiance because of the word God. Had it not been for these men and women who faught and fight for us we would not be able to fly the flag nor have the freedom that many take for granted! Google that! God Bless America and the Freedom we have!
residentgood October 26, 2012 at 09:26 PM
OK, keeping score, Harry Lefferts and Steve have gotten it exactly correct. If, for example, 70% of your school population takes off to observe a religious holiday then it is impractical to hold school. There are many state accepted religious holidays but only the ones with the largest population gets the day off on the calendar (the other religions may take a day off themselves without consequence, theoretically). It may be time for the BOE to look at the population and reevaluate holidays (not because any religion is better or "American" but due to practical demographics). Note: the calendar is "revenue neutral" so if one group gets a holiday, another will likely lose one (or extend into summer further). @Centurion: Nice logic, we don't live in Israel, either (being the origin of Judaism and Christianity). @Charlie's Mom: You do realize the "we live in America" means that later when a majority goes against you, you can't whine when the vote goes against you (see above about losing a holiday).
Lisa October 28, 2012 at 01:02 AM
I keep my children home from school when I want them home, not when the school board says I can keep them home. They are my children, not the school board's. It is your decision to keep your children home for whatever reason you choose, religious or not. Most teachers in the school district allow the needed time for work to be made up as well as make up tests, especially if you let them know ahead of time of the absence. If it is that important to you, then keep them home.
Prachi Jain October 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
The Indian residents of Bernards Township schools are also asking that the schools should be closed for Diwali based on the number of Indians residing here and our kids missing out on the festivities at home. Let us support each other's cause. We are going in large numbers to the BOE meeting on Nov 12th to ask the same. Kudos to the Hillsborough Indian Community for coming forward and asking that Diwali should be a school holiday.
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USA American November 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Oh man this page got my goat. This is ridiculous, this is America not india. We fly an American Flag not an india flag ( mabey soon im sure) America allowed you to come here and have our freedom, now you want us to celebrate your holiday and have our kids miss school and parents miss work? We dont get paid for diwalli you may since Im sure you work for indians. Columbus day off and now not? If it were not fir him all the deepacks and guptas would not be here. Now South Brunswick ( the politically coreect town BS) has now also put another holiday on the calander now we have to take off for an islamic holiday as well eid-alah-hala or some shit like that. Now that they have shit on the trade center and the Americans they want us to keep our school closed so they can go kill a goat with there kids. Imagine us telling our kids well some islamic guy was going to kill his own son but something stopped him from stabbing his own kid with a knive and to just kill a goat instead . WTF is that about sick m-fers. We dont pledge anymore, guess what America they are taking over like cockroaches
USA American November 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Oh man this page got my goat. This is ridiculous, this is America not india. We fly an American Flag not an india flag ( mabey soon im sure) America allowed you to come here and have our freedom, now you want us to celebrate your holiday and have our kids miss school and parents miss work? We dont get paid for diwalli you may since Im sure you work for indians. Columbus day off and now not? If it were not fir him all the deepacks and guptas would not be here. Now South Brunswick ( the politically coreect town BS) has now also put another holiday on the calander now we have to take off for an islamic holiday as well eid-alah-hala or some shit like that. Now that they have shit on the trade center and the Americans they want us to keep our school closed so they can go kill a goat with there kids. Imagine us telling our kids well some islamic guy was going to kill his own son but something stopped him from stabbing his own kid with a knive and to just kill a goat instead . WTF is that about sick m-fers. We dont pledge anymore, guess what America they are taking over like cockroaches
USA American November 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM
How come we cant say Christmas but you can say diwalli
Harry Bumdiddler November 12, 2012 at 01:08 PM
What about Jye Entdik? Carp Pole Dance is only every seven years.
Mark November 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM
How many other BOE meetings have you attended?? Do you only go "in numbers" to try to get what you want???? If everytime alot of kids were missing school we closed, they would be off all year.

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