April 4, 2023

RENO, Nev. (May 31, 2016) — In its recently adopted resolution, “The List of Religious Holidays Permitting Student Absence from School,” New Jersey State Board of Education listed 19 Hindu festivals

According to Rajan Zed, president of the Reno-based Universal Society of Hinduism, the organization urged the New Jersey Education Board in the past to include five festivals on the list, which did end up being included in this list. These holidays include four festivals in October itself, including Navaratri, which alone is listed for ten days.

Zed said this “list of religious holidays on which it shall be mandatory to excuse a student”, includes the Hindu festivals of Guru Purnima, Naga Panchami, Raksha Bandhan, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesha Chaturthi, Onam, Navaratri, Duserra, Diwali, Goverdhan Puja,  Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Vasant Panchami, Maha Shivaratri, Holi, Chandramana Yugadi, Souramana Yugadi, Ramnavami and Hanuman Jayanti.

The list is a step in the positive direction, Zed said, and thanked the Education Board and its President Mark Biedron for being inclusive of Hindu holy days. Hinduism is rich in festivals that are very dear to families who want to celebrate them together along with their school going children, Zed said, and at the same time these families do not want their children to be deprived of any privileges at the school because absences to honor these special days.

According to the Education Boar resolution: “Any student absent from school because of a religious holiday may not be deprived of any award or of eligibility or opportunity to compete for any award because of such absence…Students who miss a test or examination because of absence on a religious holiday must be given the right to take an alternate test or examination…Boards of education, at their discretion, may add other days to the list for the schools of their districts”, and “Any absence because of a religious holiday must be recorded…as an excused absence.”

The Education Board meets monthly in Trenton to adopt the administrative code, which sets the rules needed to implement state education law. Such rules cover the supervision and governance of the state’s 2,500 public schools, which serve 1.38 million students. Joseph Fisicaro and Diane Shoener are vice president and director respectively, with David Hespe as commissioner of New Jersey Department of Education, and Chris Christie is the New Jersey Governor.

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