Update: School Keeps Christmas, Halloween; Adds Ramadan; Muslim Mother Asks That Ramadan Be Celebrated Along With Other Holidays In Oak Lawn Schools
(CBS) OAK LAWN, Ill. Following a school board meeting where parent complained about what they saw as an assault on traditional American celebrations, an Oak Lawn school district has decided to keep observing Halloween and Christmas, but only on the condition that Muslim holiday Ramadan is celebrated as well.
The school district had asked principals to tone down all holiday celebrations after a Muslim mother requested that her children be separated from others during lunch for the Ramadan fast.
But after heated remarks from many parents at the meeting Tuesday, the school board changed its position.
“Everything is staying the same,” school board member Dave Lis said. “Christmas is still Christmas, and Halloween is still Halloween.”
That’s good news to fifth-grader Samantha Ramirez, who looks forward to Santa’s annual visit to Columbus Manor School.
“We should be able to celebrate our thing, and they should be able to celebrate theirs, too,” the 10-year-old said.
Elizabeth Zahdan was at the center of the storm, a Muslim mother of three who requested that her children be separated from others at lunch during the Ramadan fast.
The schools agreed, but at the Tuesday board meeting, many parents didn’t.
“I don’t ever remember one of us asking for our child to be separated from classmates during Ash Wednesday when they were fasting, or on every Friday of Lent when our children are not allowed to eat meat,” said parent Cathy Hughes.
“If Muslims want the school holidays, menus and school traditions to become tailored to their needs or beliefs, then they should go to private school next to their mosque,” said resident Brian Shapiro.
“That does not represent all the Muslims, all of the Arabs at that school,” said Qais Nofel, the father of a student in Ridgeland School District 122.
Still, for many residents the debate took on a nationalistic tone, one of defending America and its traditions.
“We’re letting you come here, were honoring you, don’t dishonor us,” said resident Linda Pferschy.
Zahdan said the compromise was exactly what she was looking for.
“Did I say ban holidays? I did not,” Zahdan said. “I said please help us stop the cycle of hatred. I said let’s celebrate all of the holidays.”
The district has a 30 percent Arab-American population, many of whom practice Islam. The superintendent says the reason for the change in tradition comes after one parent wanted Ramadan decorations put up inside Columbus Manor Elementary. They were taken down.
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