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Friday, September 17, 2021

Students, know your rights about religious holidays

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Christmas and Thanksgiving are boldly stamped on almost every U.S. calendar, and on these holidays, schools close and many employment offices shut down. However, there are still many holidays that do not receive the same attention or privileges.

When a family celebrates a holiday that is not automatically designated as time off from school for children, it can impact personal observances. Many student handbooks, college and universities included, dedicate a section to religious holiday observations.

Following are policies and information pertaining to religious holiday observations for students.

The policy

The Office of the Vice Provost provides instructors at Indiana University (IU) a list of religious holidays for Faculty and Academic Affairs where the Calendar Committee determines the Bloomington campus’ academic calendar.

Within that policy states, “Faculty do not have to consider accommodations for the purpose of allowing students to travel away from Bloomington for a religious observance.”

However the policy also states “It is the policy of Indiana University that instructors must reasonably accommodate students who want to observe their religious holidays at times when academic requirements conflict with those observances. This policy is intended to ensure that both faculty and students are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities in the accommodation of students’ religious observances.”

Many other colleges and universities have similar policies.

“UIndy has a diverse campus community, with students from more than 60 nations and a culture that respects all faiths,” said Scott Hall, spokesman at the University of Indianapolis. “Although there is no written policy for holidays that are not already included in the annual calendar, students generally are able to make individual arrangements with their professors when necessary, and we’re not aware of any problems that have arisen.”

Student observance

While some policies are written into the student handbook, others can be found online on the school’s website or simply a policy teachers and professors should be aware of. For children in grade school, parents are asked to speak with school administration about the exact policy of the district. Many parents and students aren’t aware of the standards that suggest religious holidays should be accommodated.

In early 2005, Tri-Creek School District, in Lowell, Ind., permitted only one day of excused absence per year for religious holidays, but once a controversy erupted between an eighth grader who received eight unexcused absences for observing the holidays of his church, the district adopted a new policy governing absences for religious holidays.

The process

Usually in the case of missing one school day, students and parents aren’t required to fill out any paperwork, however they may be required by administration to make note of the absences. In most cases, students/parents should simply speak with the teacher/professor about why they or their child is missing school.

Missed Homework

Most schools will allow students to make up any missed assignments in a timely matter with notice. The IU campus policy states, “Any student who is unable to attend classes or participate in any examination, study, or work requirement on some particular day(s) because of his/her religious beliefs must be given the opportunity to make up the work which was missed, provided that the makeup work does not create an unreasonable burden upon Indiana University. Upon request and timely notice, students shall be provided reasonable accommodation.” The policy also makes note that, “Attendance policies allowing for a specific number of dates to be missed without impact on a student’s grade should not count absences for religious observance within that number.”

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