GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — One Gwinnett County freshman is trying to make difference in her district and for the Muslim community.
Noor Ali, 14, is currently participating in Ramadan. And on May 1, those of Islamic Faith will celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, concluding the holy month of fasting.
Ali said she's had to choose between going to school and celebrating Eid with her family and friends. She doesn't want others to have to do the same. This is why she started a petition to ask Gwinnett County Public Schools to add the Islamic holiday to the school calendar.
Ali said she kept asking herself, "Why doesn't someone change this?"
"I got tired honestly, 'Why doesn't someone bring this to light?'.. and I decided why not do this for myself," she said.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the student body, yet Gwinnett county still does not recognize the Muslim holiday on the calendar.
The school district sent the following statement after 11Alive asked about it:
In GCPS, we value our diversity as a strength, and we strive to center the voices of the community we serve, especially our students. We are proud of the student advocacy demonstrated at our last Board meeting on behalf of our Muslim community to recognize Eid as a student/staff holiday in our schools. Our calendar for the 2022-23 school year already has been approved and shared with the community. We look forward to engaging our community, including the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SSAC) in discussions about future calendars. The SSAC is well-positioned to provide their feedback to the Superintendent for consideration in future years.
Gwinnett is a very diverse community and our district serves families and has staff members who represent many faiths. Any consideration of adding additional holidays to the calendar must be balanced with the knowledge that this action would result in days being added to the school calendar to ensure 180 days of instruction. Historically, our focus has been on meeting the state’s 180-day requirement, while ending first semester before the winter break and completing the school year by Memorial Day. Over the last few years, based on feedback gathered from our community and staff, we have extended Thanksgiving break to a full week and have added breaks in October and February.
Currently, the observance of religious holidays necessitating absence from school are considered excused absences.
We do recognize Eid and other holidays in our Employee Calendar and provide the guidance that teachers and administrators minimize conflicts with these observances when planning schoolwide activities and programs.
GCPS is committed to promoting a welcoming climate where all religious, ethnic, and cultural traditions are valued and accepted in our community.
Ali is hoping her petition will help to add the holiday to the school district's calendar in the future, so students like herself can not only keep up with their school work but also feel included.
"With this holiday, it brings inclusivity, respect and awareness towards the Muslim and Islamic Faith," she said. "I hope that Muslim students just... feel included and they feel just as significant as anyone else. "
Ali's petition currently has more than 8,200 signatures. Her goal is 10,000.
“Rather than forcing students to choose between going to school or celebrating their faith, Gwinnett County should heed the call of this student led grassroots movement and officially grant Eid as a district-wide holiday," Murtaza Khwaja, Executive Dir. of the Georgia Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. "The free exercise clause enumerated in our nation’s constitution demands that our elected officials favor no religion over another. As such, Muslim students deserve the same opportunity to celebrate their holidays as afforded to those of the Christian or Jewish faith.”
To learn more about the petition, click here.