Call for Southborough to add school holiday (but, so far, not from district families)

Above: A “Hindu statesman” outside the region is calling for our district to add Diwali to the list of school holidays. (Image of a Rangoli decoration in celebration of Diwali cropped from photo posted to flickr by Subharnab Majumdar)

Last week, I received a press release from a self proclaimed Hindu statesman, Rajan Zed. The release announced his “urging” of “PSONAS” (Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough) to add Diwali,”the most popular Hindu holy day” to the 2015-16 school calendar.

It turns out the holiday in question, falls on Veteran’s Day in 2015 and Sunday the following school year. So, it’s hardly a pressing issue for this fall.

The question I had was, is this something of concern to Hindu families in our district?

According to the press release, the district’s schools “reportedly have significant number of Hindu students”.

According to Superintendent Christine Johnson, neither the district (or she believes Department of Ed.) have statistics on students’ religious affiliations. Prior to the release, the school hadn’t been contacted by Zed’s organization or anyone else asking for this change.

The release makes no reference to involvement of any families in the district. And Rajan Zed has yet to respond to any of my questions (or, apparently T&G’s).

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette followed up on the release, including interviewing some members of a temple in Northborough. Here are some highlights:

None of the families at the Shri Gurusthan Sai Temple who talked with a reporter complained about the conflict, although [Southborough’s Sunita] Bulusu said, “It would be nice to have it. . .

[A 9 year old Shrewsbury student said] while he loves the presents and food of Diwali, he didn’t feel he was missing out by being in school. “There’s a lot of groups that celebrate festivals that Indians in America do,” he said. “It’s all over the year.”

Jagadeesh said it was not a problem for children to go to school during the day. The temple is open in the evening too, so families that can’t come earlier may worship then.

Rajiv Dayal, president of the India Society of Worcester, a cultural organization, said India is a very diverse country with many religions. The ISW offers a Diwali service the Saturday before or after the holiday, but it also hosts Christmas and other celebrations. (Click here for the full article.)

In 2014, the district’s school committees considered a request by then-Superintendent Dr. Charles Gobron to eliminate the three religious holidays (Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Concern about the potential for a future request to add more holidays for growing Muslim and Hindu populations, was part of his reasoning.

Some members of the community objected to dropping of holidays, especially the two Jewish holidays. In the end, Gobron and the committee listened to parents’ concerns and opted to keep those holidays. At the time, no one came forward to ask the committee to consider adding other holidays.

An interesting note, Zed has sent out 6 press releases on other issues since the August 12 release on our district’s holidays. One was to ask the Mass Dept of Elementary & Secondary Education to add 17 Hindu holidays to its current list of 32 religious and state holidays on their “Holiday Observances in Massachusetts”.

You can read both releases here.

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