Recently in schools Category

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown has been against the idea of an elected school board in Chicago. Until Wednesday, May 22. That's the day that the Chicago Board of Education, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in nearly the blink of an eye, voted to close 50 public schools in the city.

Mark wrote about his change of heart on an appointed body. Here he discusses why he sees need for a change.

dist68l.jpgSkokie School District 68 is taking a big step forward in acknowledging the district's shifting demographics by announcing they will add the Muslim holiday Eid ul Adha as a day off to the 2013-14 school calendar, according to the Pioneer Press (a sister paper of the Sun-Times). District 68 Superintendent Frances McTague told the Pioneer Press, "This was the first year I've been approached by a parent as to why we take two Jewish days off and no Muslim day off." The school district also plans to observe Rosh Hashanah and Good Friday.

It's the opposite track taken by other nearby school districts who have responded to shifting religious demographics by not observing any religious holidays. Eid ul Adha is one of the two most important festivals in the Muslim calendar along with Eid ul Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan. In 2013, the holiday will be observed on Tuesday, October 15, [PDF] giving students a four-day weekend as it follows Columbus Day (Monday, October 14).

The topic of schools observing Muslim holidays has been the source of debate across the country in recent years. Things got ugly in the Broward School District near Miami, Florida last fall when the issue of observing the two most important Muslim holidays came up. While supporters of the holiday cited high absenteeism on those holidays as a good reason for observing the holidays, not everyone was for a diverse range of observed holidays. Protesters outside the Broward meeting were holding signs that said "Protect Our Children No Holiday For Perverted Cult" and "Teach Math Not Sharia."

In 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that city's schools would not observe Muslim holidays when the City Council wanted to impose such holidays; Bloomberg cited the wide diversity of the city's school population as a reason. Meanwhile, several supporters of closing on those holidays have cited Dearborn, Michigan which has closed on those holidays for over a decade due to the school district's demographic make-up. And a superintendent in Cambridge, MA said, over the decision to observe those Muslim holidays, "People were upset with us, but we took it as affirmation that the decision was right."

While the debate of religious inclusion isn't going away, that the decisions are becoming part of public discourse is a positive sign as to the country's slow recognition of its changing religious make-up as a whole; according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau [PDF], the number of self-described adults who consider themselves Muslim nearly tripled from 1990 to 2008.

Still, there are those who seem dead-set against recognizing reality. Cal Thomas, a contributor at (where else?) Fox News, told that network in a 2010 story:

"It is instructive to me that schools are going out of their way to discriminate against Christians by denying them the right to voluntarily pray with coaches and other players before games, but those same schools bend over backwards to accommodate Muslim student athletes for Ramadan," Thomas told FoxNews.com.

"This is worse than a double standard. It is singling out one religion and giving it priority over all others. And that is, or ought to be, unconstitutional."


Besides managing to somehow find a way to show that Christians in 21st Century America are being persecuted, Thomas also showed a blind spot to this country's extensive history with racial and religious oppression, one that continues in violent and deadly ways today. But Thomas is far from alone in picking nits and twisting stories to fit a hideous agenda to make violence against other cultures seem overblown by a nefarious liberal media bias.

While there is truth to the idea that a school district can't possibly accommodate every religious holiday that may be observed, the growing number of Muslim in students in American students deserve to have their holidays and religion properly addressed in an adult manner. With smaller cities like Dearborn, Cambridge, and, now, Skokie, setting the standard, there's hope that the rest of the country may soon come to terms with the country's ever-changing racial and religious make-up and that "melting pot" in a respectable manner.

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Josh Cunningham of Morgan Park flies in for a shot against Notre Dame. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media


Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for December 4, 2012.

• Chicago Public Schools released its findings on the number of children in each school, figures that will help determine which schools will be closed or consolidated after the CPS ignores the pleas of parents. [Sun-Times]

• Mayor Emanuel's digital billboard plan got the rubber stamp approval from his minions was approved by the City Council. [WBEZ]

• Speaking of Mayor Emanuel, he doesn't care about the head of a firm with a big O'Hare contract being tied to the mob because the idea of such a thing happening in Chicago, of all places, is just preposterous. [Sun-Times]

• This year's New Years Eve penny rides on the CTA will be free this year, covered by beer megacorp MillerCoors though given the quality of the CTA lately, Malort would have been a better choice. [RedEye]

• A bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses sailed through the state senate today. [Sun-Times]

• Former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica was sentenced to four months of court supervision after being found guilty of criminal damage because he defaced campaign signs of his opponent in the 2010 election which Peraica lost. Let this be a lesson to other politicians: keep arguments with opponents confined to the bottomless pit of despair that is the Internet, where they belong. [Sun-Times]

• The city has quickly reached an agreement with the bartender beaten by former Chicago cop Anthony Abbate so it can ask the presiding judge to set aside the ruling a jury recently made. [CBS 2]

• It's like Yelp!, except for dirty massage parlors! [CSJ]

• NPR has a fantastic feature about renowned local reissue label Numero Group and its numerous compilations which any of you should feel free to buy me for Christmas. [NPR]

• EVERYBODY PANIC!!!! Bears Edition as Brian Urlacher may be done for the year. [Sun-Times]

• BRIGHT ONE: Carol Marin, one of the three Sun-Times reporters who helped push the David Koschman case, shares why Christmas is no joyful time for Nancy Koschman. [Sun-Times]

• FINALLY: Stop Tweeting from the toilet. [France 24]

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A parent of two students at Eli Whitney Elementary School in Little Village is sweating the school's principal over a letter sent home to students requiring donations to the school's air conditioning funds. Or else? According to a report by our own Lauren FitzPatrick, "And parents are being told by the principal and some of his staff that if their fees aren't paid by report card pickup day on Tuesday, their children's report cards won't be released." Be sure to read all of FitzPatrick's story on the matter and check out the entire letter from principal Jorge A. Ruiz above.

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