PHOTO | Chinmaya Mission

Local Hindu Americans Petition Montgomery County Board of Education for Diwali Holiday (PHOTO)

When the Montgomery County Board of Education meets next Tuesday they will have one more thing to consider. Members of the Chinmaya Mission in Silver Spring and the Hindu American Foundation are petitioning the Board to recognize Diwali as a holiday for the 2017-2018 school year.

Diwali is one of the most important holidays in Hinduism and is also celebrated by Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. In 2016, Diwali falls on a weekend but it will occur on a weekday in 2017.

Dr. Murali Balaji is the Director of Education and Curriculum Reform at the Hindu American foundation and one of the organizers of the petition.

PHOTO | Chinmaya Mission

PHOTO | Members of the Chinmaya Mission celebrate Diwali.

“This really emerged as a result of conversations among community members, especially since many Hindus and Jains feel the academic calendar should be equitable. I think the lack of clarity in terms of how MCPS added religious holidays to its list of school closings got members of the community motivated. The Hindu American Foundation and Chinmaya Mission, as well as individual Hindu community leaders, came up with the petition as a way of getting the wider community engaged, and for school officials to understand the needs of the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh communities,”said Balaji.

The Board previously moved a professional work day during the 2015-2016 school for Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday.

Dr. Raj Bommakanti  is a member of the Chinmaya Mission in Silver Spring and has two children who attend school in Montgomery County. He also helped coordinate the Diwali holiday petition and says that over 1,000 supporters have signed the petition so far.

“Since the Hindu calendar is based on a lunar cycle many of our festivals don’t come on a weekend. There is an auspicious time to celebrate and do certain rituals. Its very hard to postpone them to a weekend. We struggle with that when kids are at school. When kids are not there, their parents don’t take time off to get to these celebrations,” said Bommakanti.

Micahel Durso is the President of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

“We have a calendar committee that meets and takes a number of things into account, testing, holidays, graduations etc. That would be a part of that and then the superintendent’s staff makes their recommendations to us for discussion and final approval. That or a similar concern would be a part of that process,” said Durso.

Supporters of the Diwali holiday will be present during a Board meeting on Tuesday, January 12th.

Willie James Inman

About Willie James Inman

Willie James Inman is a Community Engagement Specialist and Multimedia Journalist at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at winman@mymcmedia.org or reach him on Twitter @imwilljames.

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