US: San Francisco schools reschedule spring break to include Eid holiday
The San Francisco school district has pushed back its spring break period by about two weeks in order to accommodate the Eid holiday in 2024, following a push from grassroots groups and organisers who have been calling for the religious holiday to be officially recognised in the school calendar.
Though the move will allow Muslims the chance to have time free to celebrate Eid, it does not officially recognise Eid as a school holiday.
This official decision comes after the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) backtracked on a decision last month to make Eid a school holiday, sparking a backlash from the local Muslim and Arab community.
On 6 March, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Arab Resource and Organising Center (Aroc) informed SFUSD that they will commence litigation if the school district fails to honour the Eid Resolution, which was passed in August 2022. If implemented, the resolution would add both Eid holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as school holidays.
In a letter to the school district, in which over 30 local interfaith leaders demanded the Board of Education follow through with its commitment to implement the Eid holidays in the 2023-24 school year, advocates wrote that just as people celebrate Christmas for both religious and secular reasons, they affirm that Eid must be recognised as a cultural celebration for many people in the San Francisco community.
The San Francisco area is home to 250,000 Muslims, according to a study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
On 10 March, the school calendar for the 2024 year was approved. Spring break, which is usually in the last week of March, will instead take place the second week of April.
While the pushing back of spring break for the 2024 calendar year is positive news, it is not a complete win, advocates say.
“We see this as a step in the right direction, but we also want to be clear: it's not nearly enough. By caving to right-wing, racist pressure and continuing to hold the stay on our Eid resolution, the school board has given license and credit to Islamophobia and bigotry,” Wassim Hage, the outreach coordinator at Aroc, told Middle East Eye.
According to Hage, the amount of harm this has caused students cannot be overstated, and if the Board of Education wants to honour its commitments to its students, it needs to make Eid holidays an official policy.
‘Institutionalising Eid resolution’
Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the ADC, believes that the right decision is to implement the resolution and ensure that Eid is recognised not only in 2024, but for the years to follow. He said they will continue to “explore all options” until the school board takes the correct measures to “institutionalise the resolution”.
“These options still include the possibility of litigation,” Ayoub said. “We also await the turnover of the records we requested to make additional findings and terminations that get to the intent and driving force behind the school board's decision to rescind the resolution in the first place.”
In January, the school district issued a number of recommendations for adding new holidays to the school calendar, including recognising certain religious holidays without formally labelling them holidays or closing school for those days. These recommendations came a couple of months after the Eid resolution was approved.
Soon after the resolution was passed, the school district was threatened with a lawsuit by attorney Paul Scott, who said the move to observe the Eid holiday was a violation of the Constitution because it prioritises one religion over others.
Several districts across the country have adopted measures to recognise certain religious holidays, including Eid, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, without similar opposition. But others are still fighting to have these measures adopted - including the City University of New York (CUNY), the country's largest urban university system.
"Students, families, and educators from all faiths will continue this fight to see the Eid resolution implemented, and have our Eid holiday as an official holiday for years to come," Hage said.