Community Relations Council reacts to Virginia Beach Public Schools

February 14, 2014

Other News

With regard to the decision of the Virginia Beach Public Schools to hold Saturday make-up classes, the Community Relations Council, on behalf of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater leaders, has sent a letter to the Superintendent of Virginia Beach Public Schools and the Virginia Beach School Board.

The letter indicates that the decision to hold classes on a day of religious importance to Jews is problematic. The letter does not make a formal demand for rescission of the decision, since students will be excused for unavoidable absences and religious holidays, according to Virginia Beach policy.

Nevertheless, it is still a disappointing and disrespectful solution since it is clear that when the School Board and Superintendent chose the Saturday option, they were not sensitive to Jews and other religions that treat Saturdays as their holy day.

The CRC plans to take this opportunity to meet with and educate the Superintendent and School Board to reinforce concerns with the make-up policy standards. While it is known that Saturday was a last option, it is clear that Sunday was not on the table. This religious indifference is not acceptable and the CRC wants to ensure future sensitivity.

The CRC’s goal is to educate school officials as to why Saturday is an important day to Jews. Such a step may help push leaders to revamp the make-up day policy or institute a different solution in the future.

In closing, the public outcry over this controversial decision, as well as criticism by The Virginian-Pilot, underscore that this poor choice has been felt community-wide and not only by the Jewish people. It has been heartening to see the outpouring of concern for religious freedom.

by Megan Zuckerman, chair, Community Relations Council

Letter to the Editor