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Parents Again Ask Why Diwali Isn't a Bernards School Holiday

Mothers say their children want to know why other cultures and religions get to celebrate while they don't.

Two parents approached the Board of Education on Monday night with a question that was raised last year — part of the school calendar?

"We want to send the message to our kids that their culture is respected," said Sundari Arni, one of the two mothers who spoke before the board.

She said that children in the Indian community are asking why other children are able to celebrate their holidays have a day off, without having to make up their work at a later time.

Reena Singhvi pointed out that during September, two days were given off from school for the Jewish holidays. Yet she said that the township demographer's report from the 2010 census identified 9 percent of the local population as Indian, more than double identified as Jewish.

Arni noted that this year's school calendar also includes a day off for Martin Luther King's holiday.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful for all children in our township to understand each other's cultures?" Singhvi asked.

Singhvi said that Diwali, which she said is an Indian cultural holiday celebrated by those with many religious backgrounds, falls on November 13 this year.

About the same time last year, Singhvi said that more than 100 petitions and about 200 emails were submitted to school board members urging that Diwali be added as a day off on future school calendars.

She said the board never responded and deferred an answer.

Board subcommittee already had been planning to discuss the school calendar

Even before the parents spoke up, Board Member Bev Cwerner had reported that the board's policy committee had been planning to discuss future school calendars, with a focus on the increasingly late final day of school each June.

Cwerner said the last day of school for 2012-13 is scheduled for June 26, and on June 24 the following year.

Alternatives to be examined include consolidating breaks or starting earlier in September.

She said school officials are trying to come up with a way to try to determine the communities values on what they want in the school calendar. She said that some complaints have been received that late last day of schools are interfering with some students' summer activities, or work schedules.

Arni said that school districts in other nearby towns don't offer two full weeks off from school in February and again in April, but instead offer a week off in March and a few days of holiday around Presidents Day.

In the past, other members of the public had expressed support for the February holiday.

BR realistic October 09, 2012 at 06:29 AM
I oppose. Kids get out of school too late in June as it is
JK October 09, 2012 at 10:57 AM
While I definitely believe that all cultures and religions should be equally respected, I would like to correct Ms. Arni's statement regarding other students being able to celebrate their holidays and not having to make up homework. My son is at Ridge and there was indeed homework assigned before the Jewish holidays. Among other assignments, he had a Power Point (partner project) which was due the evening of Rosh Hashanah via electronic submission. If my son had chosen to defer the assignment, it would have been due one day later. The same was always true when my children had to take the day off from school when the school calendar included only one day for our High Holy Days. It is going to be a very difficult job for the BOE to please everyone, but I applaud them for trying.
cayman57 October 09, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Diwali is a cultural holiday in India. Much like our Thanksgiving. Do they celebrate and and take time off of school for US Thanksgiving in India. The Jewish High Holy Days are religious holidays. Request was ridiculous.
cayman57 October 09, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I think we should outsource Thanksgiving to India. I am sure we would get better rates on our Turkey. I am sure all the Turkey farmers would not mind adding to the millions of un-employed American. Using percentages of Jewish Students in their argument was also boarder line Anti-Semetic.
BRER October 09, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Actually, if we think about it, there are a lot of things that don' make sense and often we deal with the outcomes of political pressure and/or power. For instance, let's look at a christian holiday that allows an off day from school. Why do non christians get the day off? For what? Similarly, why do Christian students get an off day on Jewish holidays? For what? Why do Indians or other Asians do not get they holidays recognized in the school calender? Simple. Because to the later comes, the bones. If the Asians are better organized and raise hell till the end of time, that the first step toward getting what they want. Until then, Asians are in the back seat. Ain't that the truth? Ain't that the truth as far as anything else is concerned? If the wheel is not squeaky enough, you are not going anywhere.
BRER October 09, 2012 at 01:41 PM
That is a moot point. Why not get rid all Christian and Jewish Holidays and insert couple Asian holidays and everyone get out of school by May, huh?
Beatrice October 09, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Why don't we go back to the old way where you were allowed to take a day off of school to celebrate a holiday as an escused absence? The Bernards Township schools do a wonderful job of teaching all students the importance of all holidays and traditions celebrated by many diverse groups. I don't see the need to give a day off for every group's holiday. In fact having a mid winter break and a spring break is just as ridiculous too. One week off during the winter/spring session is more than sufficient. In our efforts to be politically correct and accomodate everyone we are losing site of what is most important, what is best for our children's education, and I don't believe it intreprets into days off to celebrate other people's cultures or so that parents can use their beach houses or time share.
BRER October 09, 2012 at 01:43 PM
If you really do equally respect all cultures, then how about one christian holiday, one jewish holiday and one asian holiday per year to start?
BRER October 09, 2012 at 01:44 PM
You are making statements based on something you don't even know and are asking aloud. That, my friend, is ridiculous.
cayman57 October 09, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Ok, so instead of going to Temple to mourn our dead. We are going to our Beach Houses?
RGMKT October 09, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Agree that it is not possible to appease every single religous minority group. Here is what they should do - declare holidays for Thanksgiving and Christmas as they are 'national' holidays. Although Christmas is supposed to be a religious holiday, is celebrated by other religious groups in terms of exchanging gifts meeting with family and having a feast. All other religious holidays should be given an honorary mention over the PA system in the schools, and discussed in social studies in the lower grades.
cayman57 October 09, 2012 at 02:00 PM
The Holiday they are asking for is not religious. It is a cultural holiday.
BRER October 09, 2012 at 02:04 PM
So tell me how Thanksgiving came about...
BR realistic October 09, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Hey BRER, huh or duh! Ed 101, come to a Country, learn its Culture. Ever notice Christmas a Federal Holiday? No need to apologize.
BRER October 09, 2012 at 02:10 PM
You are missing the point. Here and now we are talking about times off in the school system that are not all federal holidays. Think for a second before you respond. If you remain confused, let me know.
cayman57 October 09, 2012 at 02:10 PM
If we were going to celebrate every immigrants cultural holidays, kids would be in 12 months a year. Every country has these days, they are celebrated in that country. Canadian Thanksgiving this week. Maybe the schools should shut down. I bet there are Canadians at Bernards High.
LC October 09, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I'm with cayman57. Enough already with the PC cultural sensitivity. When I moved here, BR did not have a day off for MLK day or Jewish holidays. I was fine with that because a day off from school does not equal respect for the day. Maybe incorporate some teaching about the importance of the day into the lesson plan. Or not! How about this - observe your cultural and religious traditions at home. How did it come to be that schools have to teach cultural sensitivity, anti-bullying, character building, and on and on? What is a parent's role? I taught my kids how to be good, kind people and responsible citizens. I sent them to school to learn academics. I am so glad my kids are out of the public schools in this town. If I had little ones now, I'd send them to private schools.
cayman57 October 09, 2012 at 05:30 PM
But that is what he fought for. The right to have a Mosque in the area. USA = Religious Freedom.
HBSR October 09, 2012 at 07:45 PM
My friend, it is very easy to pour your heart out in a very negative manner. I think you should think before you pen down your thoughts. Understand you are angry or something is bothering you a lot, take a moment sit back and think about what you have penned down here. Think really hard if this was necessary at all at this point. I just hope this negativity in you is not being passed down to your children. May GOD bless you with better thoughts and choice of words.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) October 09, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Please remember this is a story about a requested day off from school, not the validity of someone's culture or religion. The issue is how Bernards Township should structure future school calendars to accommodate the community, and to also meet state requirements for required number of school days.
BRCIT October 09, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Mr./Mrs./Ms. Cayman57 - although I am not in favor of the request made for a holiday on the occasion of Diwali or any other religious festival and I would like to point out that I am not hindu either - I would like to correct your ignorance - Diwali is the main Religious Holiday for Hindus. In fact ask any of them and they will explain to you how important it is to their religion. I, for one agree with others on the forum that an excused holiday works fine - as we get get more diverse as a community, giving a day off for each of our important days is not feasible. An excused holiday works well enough - at this rate we are going to end up spending more days off than on !
cayman57 October 10, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Thank you for correcting me. The article however did say cultural not religious.
ForD October 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM
I couldn't agree with you more! In fact if we keep on this multi-culture holiday idea- ALL religious holidays should be omitted from the Public School Calendar !! Only USA/National-Historical holidays should be observed!!! Please help make this happen!
ForD October 10, 2012 at 12:00 PM
As for our school breaks...do you think we could agree to vote on one given "Break-week" between Winter and Spring for all, that does not include a Holiday? I feel we would all benefit, again, with an earlier June dismissal! Our school calendar has gotten way off course here~
SD October 10, 2012 at 01:43 PM
We have more than enough days off, we don't need any more. If we add this one remove another one.
BR realistic October 11, 2012 at 08:52 AM
Patches: I'm switching over to Bernardsville news . Appears you have a double standard what comments you do/don't allow to post

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