Written by Amina Thomas
The Prince George’s County Muslim Council welcomed the CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Dr. Monica Goldson, for a town hall forum on November 6, 2019.
At the forum, the community was given a chance to voice their concerns on issues directly affecting Muslim students and faculty in the county, particularly the acknowledgment of Eid in the annual schedule and dress code allowances pertaining to religious gear (i.e. hijab, kufi, etc.).
Within the last term, the Prince George’s County Council has made significant investments to contribute to the overall progress of the county’s public schools. Thus far, $53 million has been allocated to increase faculty salaries and for projects like, new school buildings and on-site mental health support. Additionally, investments are being made in special education so that teachers are more adept at responding to the situations they may encounter.
Over the course of the evening, Dr. Goldson was able to field questions from the audience on supporting Eid observance, for when it falls during the school year, and covering what religious accommodations are available.
“[When deciding the calendar] I will make sure that the Prince George’s County Muslim Council gets the surveys to be sent to their members so that they can agree to and provide input on the recommendations that are presented.”
In deciding whether or not the Eid holidays will be acknowledged on PGCPS calendars, Dr. Goldson explained that there is a designated committee that creates the calendar for the school year. To contribute to the discussion, surveys are sent out that question what days school should be out of session, dates that faculty are likely to be absent, and if there are any significant holidays to be acknowledged. Dr. Goldson is continuously looking for input on the calendar so that all parties can be considered. However, it is in the hands of the community at large to respond through all necessary channels.
As far as daily religious observances, this is something that is in the students’ rights handbook, which is distributed annually. There, it is noted that it is a required allowance for students to be allowed to wear any religious garb and to be excused for prayer times. While the majority of schools do not yet have designated prayer areas, it is not an idea that has been abandoned and strides are being made to fulfill this desire.
For any of the students’ needs to be met, there is a certain amount of intervention that is needed by the adults of the community. Consistent pressure must be put on the administration by Muslim families so that issues directly affecting our students may be addressed. When Dr. Goldson releases her regular news updates, it is important to read it. Once the surveys are shared for deciding on the upcoming calendars, responses need to be submitted.
The following evening after the forum, three PGCMC members spoke before the Prince George’s County Board of Education requesting that they close the schools on the Eid Holidays to promote equality and respect for the Muslim religion and those who practice it. PGCMC will inform the community about future Board meetings where the community may be heard. Taking action is the only way that progress can continuously be accomplished.
Those seeking to stay informed of PGCMC events and initiatives can go to the website at www.pgcmc.org and join the email list.