Each year the Jewish Federation distributes a memo to all local schools and district leadership reminding them that the High Holidays are approaching and that California State Law protects students from being penalized for observing their religious holidays.
Below is a copy of the letter that your district representatives and schools received from us.
If we can help support you in advocating for the rights of your child in his or her school please let us know. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (626) 445-0810.
The Jewish Federation serves as the voice and the Jewish representative for the local Jewish community – from Glendale to Rancho Cucamonga and south to Whittier. We estimate that there are between 30,000 – 60,000 Jews living in the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.
In addition to being the Jewish voice in the community, the Jewish Federation also provides programs and services that meet the needs of our local Jewish community.
With this in mind, I am writing to you in regards to the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days. Below is the list of dates for this year’s High Holy Days:
Rosh Hashanah-Wednesday (sundown), Sept. 20 – Friday, Sept. 22
Yom Kippur-Friday (sundown), Sept. 29 – Saturday, Sept. 30
- Wednesday (sundown), Oct. 4 – Friday, Oct. 6
Shemini Atzeret-Wednesday (sundown), Oct. 11 – Thursday, Oct. 12
Simchat Torah-Thursday (sundown), Oct. 12 – Friday, Oct. 13
During these Holy Days, it is customary for Jews to spend time in synagogues and with their family. As such, and being that this year many of the Holy Days fall during the week, your district’s Jewish students (and faculty) may be out in celebration of the holidays.
Each year, unfortunately, many Jewish students and their families are faced with a difficult choice to make. Do they keep their students out of school in order to celebrate the Jewish Holy Days with their family and their community? Or, do they miss celebrating the Holy Days and send their students to school in order that they do not get “penalized” for missing school? There is a fear that by missing school, they will be given either harder homework or, if by chance they miss a test, a harder test. However, this should not be the case.
According to California Education Code (EC 46014 and EC 48205):
“Pupils, with the written consent of their parents or guardians, may be excused from school in order to participate in religious exercises or to receive moral or religious instruction. No pupil shall have his or her grade reduced or lose academic credit for any excused absence or absences if missed assignments and tests that can reasonably be provided are satisfactorily completed within a reasonable period of time.”
“Notwithstanding Section 48200, a pupil shall be excused from school when the absence is:
(7) For justifiable personal reasons including, but not limited to, an appearance in court, attendance at a funeral service, observance of a holiday or ceremony for his or her religion, attendance at religious retreats…”
“A pupil absent from school under this section shall be allowed to complete all assignments and tests missed during the absence that can be reasonably provided and, upon satisfactory completion within a reasonable period of time, shall be given full credit therefor. The teacher of the class from which a pupil is absent shall determine which tests and assignments shall be reasonably equivalent, but not necessarily identical, to the tests and assignments that the pupil missed during the absence.”
Accordingly, if a Jewish student misses school on any of the days listed above, such absences should be considered excused, and the student should be provided a reasonable amount of time to make up any necessary work or test, and should not be penalized for being absent in order to observe his or her faith.
I encourage you to please share this information with your district’s Principals and ask them to share it with their faculty and staff. By reminding them, our community’s Jewish students and their families will feel more comfortable about missing school and able to celebrate and observe their Judaism during these important Holy Days.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please feel free to call me and we can discuss this over the phone or in person.
Again, thank you for your help and as always, if an issue arises with your district, or you are in need of a Jewish resource, please let me know.