This year, the Anti-Defamation League continues its annual practice of making sure Jewish students are not academically penalized for missing school during the High Holidays.
ADL Arizona sent a letter to every school district in the state alerting them to this year’s dates for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The letter, sent on July 25, mentioned the importance of these holidays to the Jewish religion.
The letter reminds school officials that students are not legally allowed to be penalized for absences on these days, as the holidays’ observance requires day-long attendance at synagogue.
“This happens throughout the country,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, director of the ADL’s Arizona region. “The ADL tries in every region to help schools in learning more about the High Holidays and about why many students are going to be out in religious observance of the High Holidays.”
Galindo-Elvira notes that there have been no recent problems with local schools in the past.
The letter also encouraged school districts to make reasonable efforts to accommodate employees who wished to observe the holidays, and referred recipients to the ADL Calendar of Observances, which lists important religious dates throughout the school year.
“Usually, we disseminate [the letter] to the schools,” said Miguel Flores, Mesa Public Schools’ communications specialist. “It comes with the calendar. We encourage the schools to put that information on their calendar wall.”
The letter also offered a reminder for school districts about how to avoid constitutional violations for the “See You at the Pole” event (which is not an ADL program) on Sept. 27.
According to the See You at the Pole’s website, the event is “a prayer rally where students meet at the school flagpole before school.” The website also describes the event as “a day committed to global unity in Christ.”
The ADL letter notes that the event must be student-run and may not be endorsed or be perceived to be endorsed by school administrators.
The letter closes with a mention of the ADL’s World of Difference Institute, which helps employees and students learn how to respect differences and address prejudice and discrimination.
The national and local ADL also promote their No Place for Hate initiative, a student-led effort that allows participating schools to combine the ADL’s anti-bias and anti-bullying resources with existing programming to foster a safer and more inclusive environment.
“Our hope is that there are no issues, and currently we’re in 50 different schools through our No Place for Hate initiative,” said Galindo-Elvira. “We have a pretty good on-the-ground presence.
“We would like for it to be more, of course, but at this point, we have not received any calls of concern or complaints.” JN