As the High School strives towards a more inclusive environment, a protocol was created to ensure that teachers gave little to no homework on religious holidays. During September, the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are celebrated. For these weekends, teachers adhered to the protocol. Students and faculty reflect on the importance, impact, consistency and next steps moving forward regarding this policy.
Principal Devan Ganeshananthan said the protocol, “was created to move towards a more inclusive and empathetic environment.”
In addition, Ganeshananthan said it was important to establish consistency in what the policy covers and acknowledge the inconsistencies of where religious holidays may fall on the current school calendar.
“There are certain biases the calendar we follow has,” he said. “Christian holidays have been prioritized.”
Bissan Kablawi (’22) said the homework policy is great for Jewish students.
“It’s great that they started doing no homework on Jewish holidays, especially since, for some Jewish holidays they are not supposed to work,” she said.
Similarly, Priya Shah (’22) said she understands the importance of excusing homework on these holidays.
“It’s important that they give minimal homework,” she said. “When I have homework, I stay stuck in my room for a very long time, and if you’re celebrating a holiday, you would want to do it with your family and not just be cooped up in a room.”
Furthermore, Gideon Putnam (’24) said teachers who teach Grade 9 classes are less accommodating about limiting work over religious holidays.
“My teachers assigned slightly less homework, although almost all without fail assigned homework,” she said. “I don’t think they were trying to violate the protocol, but I feel like it would be more ideal if there just was no homework assignment.”
Though this protocol was created last year, both Shah and Kablawi said they did not notice much acknowledgement from teachers regarding non-Jewish religious holidays.
“In the holidays that I celebrate, such as Diwali and Holi for instance, there was homework given,” Shah said.
Furthermore, Kablawi said teachers should have a similar attitude toward all religious holidays students observe, such as Ramadan, which will take place through April and May in 2021.
“I feel like if they do this for Jewish holidays, they should also be considerate of other religions,” she said. “I’m Muslim, so I fast for a whole month during Ramadan and that’s actually the time where I get the most homework.”
Although Kablawi said homework hinders the ability of some students to celebrate, she said there are additional mental and physical obstacles that come with fasting.
“I’ll have to come to class and spend a lot of energy, I also might exercise afterward, without water, without food, then I’d also have homework,” she said. “It just takes a lot of energy and sometimes I’d not feel well. So, it was never considerate of Muslim holidays.”
Shah said there are possible solutions to combat some of the hardships Muslim students might face during this month.
“For example, you have a test on a day but you’re not really feeling well, there should be this opportunity for students to reach out and be like, ‘Hey, I wasn’t able to complete this. I’m fasting. I’m celebrating Ramadan,’” she said.
In addition, Ganeshananthan said teachers were happy to make accommodations, including the P.E. department giving alternative activities to those who might feel physically weaker.
However, Shah said that, though she agrees with this idea, it may hinder the productivity and the pace of the classes.
“Having no homework for all students for all religious holidays might interfere with how quickly teachers go through the content,” she said. “By all means, every religious holiday should be celebrated and be given awareness. But I’m not sure how learning would also go about if every single student was given no homework.”
Putnam said he agrees and said that academics might suffer.
“I feel that if homework isn’t given on Jewish holidays, they might feel obligated to do this on all other holidays that are similarly represented,” he said.
Ganeshananthan said that adjusting protocol will require taking into account the less-celebrated holidays that are not often considered.
The Hindu holiday of Diwali is this weekend, and Ganeshananthan said the administration has taken this into account.
“Faculty and staff have been informed, and they can act accordingly,” he said. “All members of the admin are open to feedback.”