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Religious Holidays Absence Bill Passes Senate

The Delaware Code does not currently contain any explicit direction for public schools relating to school absences for observance of religious holidays. That is now going to change. House Bill 163 has passed the House 40-1 and the Senate 17-1-3. Republicans Rich Collins and Colin Bonini voted against the bill, because I suppose they realized that non-Christian holidays will finally be treated equally under the law. For reasons passing understanding, Republican Senators Hocker, Lawson and Wilson decided to not vote.

House Bill 163 requires schools to excuse a pupil’s absence for observance of a religious holiday, and further requires districts and charters to have a policy discouraging teachers from scheduling tests, presentations and the like on days where some students may be absent for a religious holiday.

A pupil who does miss a grading event must be allowed to make-up the test or otherwise recover credit. The Department of Education is directed to promulgate rules and regulations relating to implementation of this Act, including a list of holidays on which an absence for religious observance must be excused.

House Bill 163 Sponsors Yes VotesNo Votes
Wilson-Anton, Baumbach, Kowalko, MorrisonPassed House 40-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton  Briggs King D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende YearickCollins
Sturgeon, S.McBride, Sokola, TownsendPassed Senate 17-1-3. Brown Ennis Gay Hansen Lockman Mantzavinos Paradee Pinkney Poore S.McBride Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh Lopez Pettyjohn Richardson Bonini, Hocker (not voting), Lawson (not voting), Wilson (not voting)
Current Status — Sent to Governor

Senator Laura Sturgeon: “During my time as an educator, I had the privilege of having numerous students who represented a religious minority come through my classroom. As a result, it was often the case that the timing of their religious holidays would be incongruent with the school’s academic calendar. My Muslim students, for example, would usually request off for Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr – a request that my superiors and I were always happy to accommodate. Without a change to the Delaware Code as written, however, there still exists the possibility that other students could be denied the request to spend the holiest of their days with their families.

This, of course, also applies to myriad other students in Delaware whose religious holidays often times conflict with the standard academic calendar. House Bill 163 is a friendly, inclusive, and common-sense piece of legislation that is designed to correct this – a collective effort between Representative Madinah Wilson-Anton, the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Bar Association, and the Delaware Association of School Administrators.

I should note that this bill does not mandate the closure of school districts for any particular holiday. In contrast to our winter and spring breaks being centered on the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter and closures in some districts for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, all that this bill requires is that those who wish to celebrate their holiest days have the ability to do so without disruption to their academic livelihoods.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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