Hindus are seeking closure of all Leander Independent School District (LISD) schools in Austin, Cedar Park and Leander in Texas on their most popular festival Diwali in the years to come.
A petition for Diwali holiday in LISD, reportedly started by Vik Shahi representing students a few months ago on Change.org, has garnered 1707 signatures. Nearby Round Rock Independent School District (ISD) declared a holiday for students on October 24, the day of Diwali in 2022.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that it was simply not fair with Hindu pupils in LISD schools as they had to be at school on their most popular festival, while schools were closed around other religious days.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that since it was vital for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children; closing schools on Diwali would ensure that and would also display how respectful and accommodating LISD was to their faith.
Rajan Zed indicated that holiday on Diwali in LISD schools would be a step in the positive direction in view of the reported presence of a considerable number of Hindu students; as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils. If schools had declared holidays around other religious days, why not Diwali, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added.
Zed suggested LISD to seriously look into declaring Diwali as an official holiday, thus recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education. Zed noted that awareness about ‘other’ religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make their students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.
Rajan Zed urged LISD Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing and Trustees Board President Trish Bode to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in their schools. Zed also thanked Round Rock ISD Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez and Trustees Board President Amber Feller for understanding the concerns of Hindu community by declaring a holiday for students on October 24 in 2022.
Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.
LISD, said to be “a fast-growth district”, educates over 42,000 students at 44 campuses, and encompasses nearly 200 square miles. Its Mission includes “Partnering with each family” and its “Ethical Principles” include “Fairness: treating everyone equally”.