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Patti Wigington

Are Religious Holidays Valid Excuses for School Absences?

By February 20, 2008

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Recently, a primary school in the London suburb of Islington made headlines when they allowed a parent to remove her six-year-old from classes for three days in order to visit Stonehenge for the summer solstice. The mother says they're Pagans, and that the absence was for religious reasons, and so the school allowed the child time off -- in the past, Newton Green Primary has allowed absences to children of other faiths for religious reasons. However, now they're beginning to crack down on parents taking their kids out of class, and according to spokesperson Jennifer Slocombe, parents "will not be given authorised holidays within term time unless there is a very good reason for it."

The question here is twofold: what constitutes a "very good reason", and who makes that determination?

The United Kingdom has over forty thousand practicing Wiccans, Druids, and Pagans, so you've got to figure at least some of those folks have kids in school. If school officials start denying one group time out of classes for religious reasons, will all faiths be held to the same standards? When you have year-round classes, you've got to assume that at some point your term schedule is going to conflict with somebody's holiday observations. Will it be up to school administrators to decide whether one spiritual path is entitled to a day off, or that another is not entitled to the same privilege?

I'm curious -- how many of you have ever taken your children out of school for a Pagan holiday or other event? Did you approach it with school administrators beforehand, and how did things work out?
February 20, 2008 at 10:41 am
(1) Shiva says:

I was never taken out of school for religious reasons, but most public schools in the states are structured around the culture and the old agricultural seasons anyway.

If a school is all year around, I think it should be a case of the family deciding. Of course, they would have to make sure the student was able to keep up. But the school system has, from my perspective, no say in what the family does regarding what absences,religious or cultural, are “good reasons.”

Working with the families so that the students don’t lag behind, within reason, should be their priority.

February 21, 2008 at 10:19 am
(2) Friend says:

QUOTE:But the school system has, from my perspective, no say in what the family does regarding what absences,religious or cultural, are “good reasons.”

Right! The school is the servant of the family, not the other way ’round. The state does not own the children, God does and the primary caregiver is the parent in a family.

In the USA religious freedom of the family is given legal precedence over the wishes of government bureaucrats and educators. That is the only way to raise a family.

February 22, 2008 at 10:55 am
(3) Raven Trinity-Moon says:

To be honest, I think education comes first. With the amount of religious holidays around, if everyone took their religion’s holiday off school they’d miss quite a lot of lessons. Just wait until after school if you want to do a celebration, it’s not difficult. It’s what I always did.

February 24, 2008 at 12:09 am
(4) Anna says:

I’ve noticed this alot, and perhaps it’s just because I live in what’s known as the Bible Belt, and that is that Christians think they’re above the rest because “they’re following the only truth” and everyone else is “wrong” and should suffer for not believing the same things they do.

Now one argument has been that Christianity is fighting to be known as The One True Religion, and therefore they tend to reject everything else and teach their kids to do the same. And because I live in the Bible Belt, most of the people down here are supposedly Christians, and they don’t think about any other religion when they’re trying to create and dictate the rules.

I, myself, have only recently become a Pagan/Wiccan due to the misinformation I was given about every single religion except for Christianity, and I’ve decided that if Christianity is The One True Way, then they wouldn’t have to lie about it, and the wouldn’t have had to use so many Pagan ideas instead of having their own.

My question is how many Christians know that their precious Christmas and Easter came from our PAGAN traditions? My own personal answer to this is that none of the Christians in my family (my whole family is Christian except me, and that’s a good 30 people or so) have learned anything about the Pagan religion or their traditions and have no idea that their customs come from ours.

February 24, 2008 at 1:42 pm
(5) Friend says:

Quote: -none of the Christians in my family have learned anything about the Pagan religion or their traditions and have no idea that their customs come from ours.

Please don’t equate the taking over of pagan holy days by Christianity with our getting our Christian truths from pagans. Chrisian beliefs are not from paganism, but from the Jewish tradition of the Old Testament fulfilled in Jesus of Nazarath as Messiah.

Both Judaism and Christianity claim to be “revealed religions”, that is, religions whose source of knowledge is an aggressive act of intervention and self-disclosure by God.

Religious holy days mean absolutely nothing in the Christian religion. People don’t have to celebrate any such days and are free to make their own. The choice to takeover a pagan holiday was deliberate. If the church chooses to celebrate Christmas in June it would be more accurate, as would celebrating Easter at Passover, but neither day changes the events that they celebrate.

February 29, 2008 at 9:08 am
(6) Dede says:

If you truly want to have a real say in what holidays your children have and what they will learn or when they will take their vacations, do what I have done and a few friends,HOMESCHOOL them.

February 29, 2008 at 10:21 am
(7) Wiccad says:

I’ve not had this issue with my son as he is not pagan, I have however, had trouble taking a day off of work for a religious holiday, even when I had more than enough leave accrued. One of my bosses would comment ‘thats not a real holiday.’ I would just inform him that yes, it was, and take my leave.

March 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm
(8) amerel says:

I have one wiccan daughter still at home. She is a senior. During the school year I allow her to pick one sabbet that is during a school day and then she is allowed to take that day off. The school is informed that it is a religious holiday and she is given an excused absence. Yes it counts towards the days that are allowed her by the school but the give no opposition to it even though my child is the only openly wiccan child. There are several that are still in the closet by choice. The school has taken care of any problems she has had with any other student because of her religion. We feel it might be because we are in a smaller midwest town that my family has been members of since it was started in the early 1800′s. So it has helped that I am a familiar person around town lol…

March 4, 2008 at 11:28 pm
(9) Rowan says:

Friend, Please study your history again. Not the history expounded by your particular church, but that written by All peoples. You will find that most Christian beliefs first came from pagan beliefs. The Jewish beliefs thay you are so proud of came from pagan roots. Even the Christian Mythologies, (the Flood, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, etc.) were written centuries before the Jewish Torah was written in Pagan texts from many different peoples (Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Keltic, Hindu, etc.).

November 5, 2008 at 8:57 am
(10) LAURA says:

I am Wiccan and have taken my kids out of school at Samhain for the last 6 years so we could travel to Salem, MA, to celebrate (it is over 500 miles from our home). This year, it has become a problem for some reason, and the school does not want to approve my oldest son’s absence. It is okay to be absent for religious reasons if you are Christian, but apparently it’s not okay for other religions. I think I will have to talk with the school board if the school does not give in, and if that doesn’t work, then I think talking with an attorney would be a good idea.

January 13, 2009 at 11:14 am
(11) MIchael says:

The problem with missing school for any reason is that students then miss out on in class instruction. Most schools have an attendance policy that addresses various absences. Are the parents who want to take their children out of school all of the time willing to accept the responsibility when their children fall behind academically? It used to be that parents supported the schools, but nowadays schools have become an enemy and are constantly being bombarded with the threat of a lawsuit.

January 16, 2009 at 2:55 pm
(12) Allie says:

I’m a high school student and a Wiccan, but I’ve never missed school for a religious holiday. The thing is though, that schools should decide what counts as a “good reason” to miss school for religious purposes.

One thing that really bugs me is that most school administrators and most people on school boards are Christian and they tend to impose their views on the whole school. For example, I live in Illinois, and for the last 32 years, my school has gotten the day off for Good Friday. They also schedule school dances on Jewish holidays, so any Jewish student either can’t go or has to miss out on a religious holiday with their family if the dance is that important to them.

April 18, 2011 at 10:32 am
(13) linda says:

Can you believe that our school district in order to make up for a bad weather day is taking Good Friday as a make up day. The most holy day of the year, the day Jesus died on the cross for us. I will definately be writing a religious excuse for my kids on that day.

April 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm
(14) paganwiccan says:

Linda ~ well, it may be the most holy day of the year for some people, but you’d be in error to assume it’s the most holy day of the year for everyone.

June 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm
(15) mum uk says:

i am not a wicca or pagan but i agree with the comment xmas and easter is pagan. i am a sabbatarian christian who keeps Gods Holy days as the people of the bible did.

January 8, 2014 at 9:07 am
(16) MrsB says:

Researching this topic, I came across this older article. I’m happy to say that a few years ago, NJ became one of the first (if not the first) public school system to add Wiccan holidays to their list of excused religious holidays!

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