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Religious Holidays Continue to Fuel Debate in Millburn School Community

Board of Education tables motion to vote on adding Lunar New Year and Diwali holidays to school calendar.

A parent addresses the Millburn Board of Education Monday night. (Photo: Jenny Goldberg)
A parent addresses the Millburn Board of Education Monday night. (Photo: Jenny Goldberg)
Written By Jenny Goldberg

The Millburn Board of Education tabled a motion Monday night to vote on adding two religious holidays to next year's school calendar.

The issue has been debated for months and more than 300 people have even signed a petition to push the district to acknowledge the Lunar New Year and Diwali on the school calendar.

Board member John Westfall-Kwong's motion on Monday to "reaffirm diversity" in the district was ultimately tabled, but sparked a conversation among board members and residents, according to NorthJersey.com.

Residents reminded board members of Millburn's large Asian population and the importance to educate and practice diversity.

One middle school student noted none of his friends are aware of the Chinese New Year and the celebrations and rituals interrupt school hours.

"Are we the others in this country? We are equal citizens and should be treated as such,” one outraged parent said.

However, the board is still seeking a policy that will act as a consistent process to balance religion and education for present and future boards. 

Some Millburn PTO members have created international night at Deerfield, Glenwood and other elementary schools, to incorporate these cultures in the school communities even if it's not officially recognized on the district calendar.

Milly June 13, 2014 at 11:11 AM
NY State Senate passed a bill S6688 to "allow Lunar New Year to be a school holiday...An important recognition by the legislature of the choice faced by so many families, celebrating the most important day of the year, or missing school... More responsive to the changing diverse makeup..." http://www.nysenate.gov/press-release/squadron-statement-senate-passage-bill-push-lunar-new-year-school-holiday?from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0
JV June 13, 2014 at 01:56 PM
I am of Indian origin living in town, and I am absolutely, positively not in favor of getting Diwali as a holiday. I have not been able to get involved in this process due to my work demands, but it is my understanding that a large part of the Indian population in town is not in favor of the holiday either. My husband and I, like most SH residents, moved here so that our children could get the best education in the state. We are not here to make any declarations or hoist our flags, that is just absurd. Moreover, Diwali celebrations are observed in the evening with the family. There is nothing to do during the day. Think about it - half of India doesn't get a holiday on Diwali (that's true, half of India does NOT celebrate Diwali!), yet we have folks pushing for a holiday here? That makes little sense to me, but maybe I'm missing something. The families that are in favor of this holiday have been trying to rally all Indian families for several months to attend BOE meetings to push this cause - ok, I don't have an issue with that. But what I find ridiculous is that these families are also putting pressure to quiet those families that are not really in favor of the holiday, or are not in agreement with the aggressive tone taken by these families. So if I understand this correctly - we either agree with them or sit by the sidelines, there is no room for disagreement? BOE has a full calendar to worry about anyway. A few extra days of snow throws off the spring break and the entire calendar. Instead of working with them on how we can give them more flexibility with the calendar, we are asking for holidays for religious observances? I'm sorry, but I am shocked that the discussion on Diwali has even come so far. It shouldn't have been brought up in the first place, and if it was, it should have been rejected right off that bat.
DS June 13, 2014 at 02:37 PM
Thanks JV, I've noticed that tone as well.. Regarding the posts on NY State and the Lunar New Year. that's ONLY done because those specific schools have 50-80% Chinese population.. that is MUCH MUCH different than we have in Short Hills...and is NOT a comparable situation by any means..
Cham June 13, 2014 at 08:00 PM
It should be noted that the Jewish holidays that are days off from school (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) are because it is forbidden by Jewish law to work on those days AND synagogue services are during the day. (Yom Kippur is also a fast day). They are not days off from school so that Jews can assert their "cultural diversity". (Note that other Jewish holidays, like Passover and Chanukah, are not days off from school in Millburn).
chokhi June 17, 2014 at 06:39 PM
Patch editors should do their own research before publishing any comments. Above comments by JV are false and are not true. Please research, investigate and find out for yourself how much truth is in these comments. Otherwise I have to say that Patch is biased.

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