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No Classes Next Year on Muslim Holiday in Maryland's Largest School District

Students in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Md., will get to stay home for a major Muslim holiday next year, after the school board voted to use the day for professional development.

The 6-2 decision was seen as a victory for Muslim residents in Maryland's largest school district of 156,000 students, The Washington Post reported. Muslim residents have been asking for one of two holy days to be added to the school calendar, arguing that students were forced to choose between their faith and school. 

Last year, the school decided to scrap all religious references from the school calendar, removing, for example, references to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah from the academic calendar even though students would not attend school on those days.

This week, the board voted not to have classes on Sept. 12, 2016, when the Islamic holiday of Eid-al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, is expected to be celebrated in the U.S. (The holiday can fall on Sept. 11 or 12 next year.)

As the nation's student population grows more diverse, some school districts have responded to requests from advocates to become more inclusive of their student populations.

Some districts in New Jersey, for example, have added Islamic and Hindu holidays to their school calendars. New York City this year became the largest school district to add two Muslim holidays, Eid-Al-Adha and Eid-Al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, as official school holidays

But those efforts have not always been successful. Jersey City, for example, decided in September not to add an Islamic holiday to the calendar this year over concerns that it would be too disruptive to do so. The district allows students to use excused absences for religious holidays. 

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