Respecting Religion

Casey Williams & Maya Williams, student

Ipswich high school is filled with many students who derive from several cultures, ethnicities, and religions.  As a public school, this building is home to many, where once students enter they feel supported and welcomed. It’s important that any school is a safe place for their students.  It’s also a part of many school structures to recognize everyone for their individual beliefs. Though during the holiday season, many may overlook how inclusive they should be regarding culture and religion.

This article revolves around the rules regarding religion at Ipswich High School and specific holiday guidelines provided by the Massachusetts department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The department states that all schools in Massachusetts must take these days off; they include Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King day, Presidents’ Day, Patriots’ Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, and Independence day. 

A lot of the holidays above don’t have to do with religion; however, there is a week taken off for Christmas while Hanukkah is celebrated around the same time and is not mentioned. The department also states that beyond statewide legal holidays, each school district and charter school can determine its own school vacations. This means that beyond the necessary holidays schools have to take off, the district is free to determine if another holiday or celebration should be observed with no school. 

Furthermore, to determine whether Ipswich High School should be taking more consideration for observations of other holidays/ celebrations, the town’s population statistics are of help. In Ipswich 57% of people are religious, of the 57%, 0.8% are Baptist, 1.6% are Episcopalian, 48.1% are Catholic, 0.4% are Lutheran, 0.7% are Methodist, 0.9% are Pentecostal, 1.9% are Presbyterian, 0.3% are Church of Jesus Christ, 1.3% are another Christian faith, 1.2% are Judaism,  0.2% are an eastern faith, 0.1% affiliated with Islam. 

Although some of these percentages may seem small, one percent in Ipswich is still 137 people. 137 people in the high school is equivalent to an entire grade. This means that there could theoretically be an entire grade worth of people who aren’t having their religion observed in the eyes of the district. 

Let’s take Judaism for example, a Jewish student at Ipswich High School says, ¨Teachers always talk about Christmas and Christmas break and stuff. We never really hear anything about Chanukah, Kwanza or the many other holidays in December. I think as a school we could educate ourselves more on the holidays we don’t celebrate to make sure we are including everybody.¨

This is a key note, that some students are feeling a little left out at this time. Though it seems as we get older we celebrate holiday events in school less and less, this Jewish student even recognizes that she hasn’t learned much about any religions in school, ¨In middle school we did a religion unit, but it was pretty quick. Personally I don’t think we should learn about religion in school because that conversation is always geared towards Christianity. That being said, when it comes to holidays we should learn more about each one in general.¨

On the basis of inclusivity some club members are taking it into their own hands to create this inclusive environment. During the holiday season the Amnesty Club President Beylen Curtis tries hers best to make sure anyone from any background is feeling welcomed. ¨The first step to including people is making sure everybody is comfortable. As a leader, it is our job to set positive examples for those around us.¨

Beylen also mentions that she feels every club is just another outlet for people to connect and learn, making a safe environment for students to express themselves even if they have different backgrounds. ¨Educating everyone on all different religions and promoting religious inclusivity is important. To start young, reading books and hearing stories and different perspectives.¨

In conclusion based on the opinions of students, and those around us at Ipswich High School the district should be more inclusive regarding religious observations and traditions. It’s very important to make a safe space for everyone and make an environment where anyone of any religion or background can feel included.