Designate Diwali a Professional Development Day for Coppell School District (No Classes)
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Esteemed Coppell School Board Members and Superintendent,
We’re writing to you to respectfully request that Diwali, an important holiday for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs, be designated a Professional Development Day for Coppell School District so that the learners can stay home with their families and celebrate the festival. Based on the Hindu lunar calendar, Diwali is on Wednesday Nov 7th (2018) and on Sunday Oct 27th (2019).
Asian students account for 47.4% of total students in Coppell School District -- South Asian, Indian, and Hindu making up a large majority (although the exact number of Hindus is not made available by any US Census, as religion is not a demographic criterion for the process). When Diwali comes around each year, often times on a weekday, too many students are faced with a difficult decision -- observe this religious holiday and risk missing important school work and activities, or forego their observance altogether because the curricular cost is simply too much. While schools are not required to close on a particular religious holiday, there is a matter of administrative convenience given a large number of students that would likely be absent on Diwali. For instance, schools are closed on Good Friday as a "Weather Day."
Even if a child wishes to observe the holiday, their families, known to emphasize education as a top priority, hesitate. At best, too many families squeeze in a rushed celebration -- fit in between the end of after-school activities, homework, studying, and bedtime.
Diwali is a time for renewal and reminds celebrants about the inherent goodness of life. People clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices ahead of the holiday, which traditionally is five days. On the main day, the day of Diwali, people light diyas (earthen lamps) inside and outside their homes and participate in family or community puja (rituals). After the puja, fireworks follow, and friends and family often gather, hold feasts, and an exchange of gifts. Diwali also marks a time for charity, as well as a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated. People of Northern, Southern, and North-Eastern India celebrate it in various forms.
Aside from the well-being of Coppell ISD students and families, there are several other factors that we believe Board Members and the Superintendent should consider:
1. A number of school districts across the US have adopted Diwali (with Eid and Chinese New Year) as an official school holiday (as "professional development" or "weather" day). The number of students who would benefit from Diwali being an official school holiday in Coppell ISD is actually significantly greater than in many of the districts listed below.
East Meadow School District, East Williston Union Free School District, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, Herricks Union Free School District, Hicksville Union Free School District, Jericho School District, and Syosset Central School District
Glen Rock School District, Millburn School District, West Windsor-Plainsboro School District, Piscataway School District, Passaic City School District, Edison Township, and South Brunswick School District
Unionville-Chadds Ford School District (PA), Harvard Public Schools (MA), and Howard County District (MD)
Syosset, New York, has only 26% Asians (compared to more than 47% in Coppell ISD). Its high school is ranked 173rd nationally (Coppell High School is at #463 in US News High school ranking). With only 632 signatures for its Diwali petition, the school board agreed to put "Professional Development Day" for Diwali (and other holidays for Muslims and Chinese Cultures).
In Howard County, Maryland Asians numbers are at 21.2% (compared to more than 47% in Coppell ISD). Its high schools are ranked at 226, 258, and 373 in the US News ranking (compared to CHS at #463). They too agreed to put Diwali on their calendar (with other holidays) as "professional development day" with only 1300 signatures (including many from outside their school district).
2. Teaching about Diwali is part of the Texas State's Curriculum Standard (for §113.18. Social Studies, Grade 6, Beginning with School Year 2011-2012, at 19B). Following this Texas State guideline, we are asking for only one Hindu holiday for Diwali (although there are two festivals listed for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in this standard).
3. The Diwali Mela (fair) in Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas boasts an attendance of 50,000 people every year with Dallas Mayor and other officials in attendance. In 2009, San Antonio became the first U.S. city to sponsor an official Diwali celebration including a fireworks display. The City of Coppell held its first major Diwali celebration on Tuesday, Oct 17th, 2017.
4. In 2016, Diwali was commemorated for the first time at the United Nations in NYC. The White House has been celebrating Diwali for nearly a decade -- a tradition that was started by fellow Texan, President George W. Bush and continued by President Obama and President Trump.
5. The United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a first-ever Diwali postage stamp on October 5, 2016. It’s since become one of the best-selling stamps in the history of USPS. Canada issued another stamp on Sept 30, 2017.
6. Diwali is celebrated around the world, particularly in countries with significant populations of four cultures: Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. These include Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean nations. Diwali is also celebrated in the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States.
Diwali is a well-known and widely celebrated holiday. We respectfully request that the Coppell ISD Board take the lead in embracing and recognizing the culture of a large number of its students. We strongly believe that such a designation by Coppell ISD will go a long way in demonstrating the commitment of our educators to the well-being of our diverse students and families.
We thank you in advance for your due consideration.
Students and Parents of Coppell ISD
Organizations Supporting the Petition:
- Art of Living Dallas
- Chinmaya Mission DFW
- DFW Hindu Ekta Mandir
- Global Hindu Heritage Foundation
- Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple
- Overseas Volunteers for a Better India
- Radha Govind Dham
- Radha Kalachandji (ISKCON) Temple
- Sri Guruvayurappan Temple
- Samskrita Bharati
- Sanatana Dharma Foundation
- Hindu Mahasabha of America
- Hindu Congress of America
- Hindu Coalition
- Nying Je Ling --Universal Compassion Buddhist Congregation
- DFW Tamil Foundation
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