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Who knows what’s important to families more than family members? As a community we are deluged with so much information, it’s hard to keep up with what we should focus on. We started our Issues and Debates section to encourage readers to bring up controversial topics and weigh in. So far, we’ve looked at the ongoing construction of the Rail Trail and had sensible debate on whether we should run a train with a bike trail or just a bike trail. We’ve looked at the proposed construction of the new downtown library. We are looking for proposals from you on what we should look at next and we’d love to have your opinions read by our tens of thousands of readers. This month we look at whether other holidays, besides only Christian ones, should be celebrated by the school system. Last month we wondered how we should celebrate Halloween during the pandemic. We want a variety of informed opinions on all our topics Write yours and it will appear on our community opinion page. In the future we will look at homelessness, water use, and whether schools should open—or whatever YOU propose we study. Send your thoughts to [email protected]
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What Students Are Saying
Dear Superintendent Munro and Members of the School Board,
My children are in the 7th and 9th grades in the Santa Cruz City Schools. For as long as we have been a part of SCCS, our family, and many others, have struggled every year with important school events, mandatory testing, school pictures, and other conflicts being scheduled during the most significant and widely observed Jewish holidays. For the Jewish community, holding an important program or required event during the Jewish High Holidays is the equivalent of having an event on Christmas day. Jewish families (and others representing religious minorities) should not be put in a position of having to choose between participating in a school-sponsored program and observing an important holiday.
Yesterday, on Yom Kippur, Mission Hill Middle School had Back to School Night and Santa Cruz High had a Parent Town Hall Meeting. This is unacceptable and unconscionable, especially at this moment in history, when issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for all members of our society are receiving heightened attention. Anti-Semitism is at an all time high due to our country’s “leadership”. The proposed California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) did not acknowledge Jewish Americans as an ethnic group, and, in its first draft, failed to include anti-Semitism as a form of discrimination, while including racism and Islamophobia.
Holidays of observance for all religions should be included in the school calendar and the school staff members and PTA’s should be asked to not schedule any school events on those dates. School districts across the country, with Jewish populations of all sizes, have this as a required operating policy.
I have written to Michelle Poirier and Kat McElwee, as I have every school principal since my children started school. As Superintendent and Members of the SCCS School Board, it is only with your leadership that a critical cultural change will happen within our community around these issues for the Jewish community and all religious minorities.
More than your response, I look forward to the action you will take during this critical time to put our school district on the right side of history.
To support you in the process of exploring what an inclusive policy around religious holidays may look like, I’ve included examples below from districts around the country, along with two university examples. Many districts close schools on these holidays out of respect for teachers’ and students’ observances. Locally, only Kirby, a private school, closes for the Jewish High Holidays.
While there are varied perspectives about the nature of accommodations, if a single Jewish student is impacted, a conflicting event should not occur (this is the foundation of anti-discrimination policies). Many schools and districts embrace this perspective, as exemplified by published policies regarding the observance of holidays, some of which I have included below.
There have been school pictures, beginning of the year celebrations, testing, back to school events, board meetings, and field trips scheduled during Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and during the first days of Chanukah and Passover every year since my children entered the school system. As I stated earlier, I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to address this with individual school leadership.A related issue that I hope you will address is the widespread celebrations of Christmas holidays in the classroom and the imbalance in curriculum-based education offering equal representation of all faiths, along with misrepresentation (in my daughter’s 6th grade history class, the Jews were referred to as “The Hebrews” throughout the semester by her teacher, even in the case of modern references). What I know from older members of the Santa Cruz Jewish community is that they have struggled with these issues for decades. It is time for institutionalized, district-wide, change.
I, and others, are available to support you in this process. Please let me know how we can be helpful.