NORTH BRUNSWICK — Six students from North Brunswick Township High School are trying to make Diwali an official school holiday.
Maithreyi Ravula, Sahil Shah, Suraj Sanyal, Sairam Vinjamuri, Swathi Tata and Rashi Bhatt presented a petition with 100 signatures to support the “festival of lights” that is celebrated by four religions of South Asia to the North Brunswick Board of Education on Dec. 16.
“On July 13, 2015, Mayor Mac Womack addressed the recent assaults on Indian- Americans by stating: ‘What’s gotten us together is really a terrible bias crime. It’s not acceptable anywhere in the world, but it’s especially not acceptable here in our home. It’s a home for all of us. We’re a community. We have to stand up as a community and say, “Not acceptable, not tolerated.” We’re one community. That’s all it is,’” Maithrevi said to the board members.
“However, the sole representation of the South Asian community in North Brunswick should not depend on the offchance that a citizen gets assaulted. To truly embrace diversity and be the community our mayor indicated a few months ago, we must take actions that respect the values of the South Asian community as well.”
According to Maithrevi as of June 2014, the Asian population of North Brunswick was the second highest demographic of the township, numbering more than a quarter of the town’s population.
“Under the current excused absence policy, the hundreds of people who wish to celebrate Diwali are forced to miss school on their own time and are punished by falling behind on classwork, assessments and lessons.” Maithrevi said.
“The creation of a school holiday would not only solve this problem but will be a gesture of basic respect that townships such as Passaic and South Brunswick have done since 2005 and 2011 [respectively]. If these townships and many others that observe the same 180 school days requirement can fit in a single day of respect for an overwhelming population of their communities, then it is surely not impossible for North Brunswick, a community lauded as the leader of diversity, to do the same. The time is now to take a stand and make North Brunswick a home to all of its citizens — advocate to make Diwali a holiday in our school district.”
Superintendent of Schools Brian Zychowski said the board receives many requests for holidays, so the idea will be brought to the Student Services Committee for consideration.
“We appreciate the way the students presented the petition,” he said. “The board will look at a balanced schedule.”
He also said the board would review the way excused absences are being addressed.
The petition can be viewed at tinyurl.com/nbdiwali.