Eid Recognized in San Francisco Unified School District
By: Malorie Lewis / Arab America contributing writer
Big news happening in California! The San Francisco Board of Education voted this month to acknowledge two Muslim holidays. As a result, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha will be recognized as official school holidays in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).
This groundbreaking resolution was brought forth by Commissioner Matt Alexander, and the Board overwhelmingly received a nearly unanimous vote in favor of it. Commissioners Kevin Boggess, Jenny Lam, Matt Alexander, and Lisa Weissman-Ward voted in favor. The only no vote came from Commissioner Ann Hsu. Commissioner Hsu has also recently been in the news recently regarding racist comments. For example, some of her comments surrounded topics regarding brown and black students. These comments spoke about their communities not having enough family support at home to be academically successful.
Here was her statement regarding the Eid vote:
I respect and appreciate everyone who advocated in support of creating a school holiday for the holy occasion of Eid. Changing the school calendar impacts everyone involved with SFUSD – students, families, teachers, and staff. A decision of this magnitude should be made by first establishing a formal criteria and process for evaluating all new school holiday requests. For example, criteria could include: whether the proposal is already a federal or state holiday, or the percentage of our student population practicing a holiday. Instead of making decisions based on political pressure, our students and families deserve a thoughtful and nuanced process that takes all factors into account.Commissioner Ann Hsu
How did we get here?
This process did not happen overnight of course, but slowly over the last two years. It all began in 2021 when a 17-year-old student, from Raoul Wallenberg High School, started a petition to have Eid recognized as school holidays in the SFUSD. Sara Oschene and her peers pushed the petition through to the city’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) by collecting over 800 signatures. Then the HRC made the recommendation that the holidays be recognized.
The Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) is a grassroots organization that advocates for the Arab community in the Bay Area. They worked tirelessly with students, parents, teachers, and other members of the Muslim community to craft a resolution for the Board of Education.
The resolution impresses on the growing Muslim population in San Francisco. It expounds on the importance of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The first and second most sacred holidays are celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It cites one key reason for the resolution. Although the San Francisco schools excuse absences for cultural holidays, unfortunately, students still miss class. That is unless it’s a holiday observed district-wide. Therefore solidifying the need to pass the resolution.
According to the resolution:
“Incorporating Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha into the San Francisco Unified School District Calendar as days when schools are closed in recognition of the holidays would allow Muslim students to fully participate in these holidays and maintain equal access to their educational opportunities.”
The resolution also noted various multicultural cities observe Eid as a school holiday. Those cities and counties include New York City, Detroit, and Broward County, Florida.
As a result of active civic participation, by both the youth and the older generations, historical changes are happening. All students are now able to learn about Eid, celebrate, and have a space to honor their culture and community.
Unfortunately on August 18th, a letter was released alluding that the SFUSD would be facing a lawsuit over this vote. Attorney Paul Scott, who is no stranger to suing the SF school board, shared a letter he sent to the SFUSD with the Chronicle. He demanded that the school board rectify a Brown Act violation, that he says it committed when it took a vote in an August 9 hearing. The hearing that the city schools recognize two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and not hold classes on those days. (Source here)
For now, getting recognition for the Eid celebrations is a major victory for religious equality in the US! In addition to that, it also sends an even stronger message to the youth. Equally important it shows the true impact of active civic participation and the change it can make from the ground up. It has the ability to engage more youth to make the same inspirational changes around the United States. These small victories have the potential to inspire an entire generation if cultivated properly. Finally, this resolution demonstrates that racial justice isn’t just a core value. On the contrary, it is an everyday priority and practice in the SFUSD. Hopefully, this resolution will remain intact.
To learn more about the importance of Civic Participation and the AROC organization you can find their social media links below.
The AROC Twitter
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