Pompton Lakes teen successfully petitions school to give students off for Muslim holy days
A Morris County teen successfully petitioned her school district to give students off for Muslim holidays.
Elmedina Veliu is a junior at Pompton Lakes High School. The 16-year-old’s mother says that she is smart and eager to learn when it comes to school.
“Super smart. Straight-A student. She is determined when she puts her mind to it,” says Marima Veliu.
So, each year, when it came time for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr – a holiday to celebrate the end of Ramadan – Elmedina would become stressed about having to miss a day of school to celebrate.
“I would miss homework assignments, tests, lessons I would try to make up the next day,” she says.
Elmedina says that she did not think that it was fair that Catholic and Jewish students had off for their religious holidays, but the 70 Muslim students in the district did not. So, she rounded up 280 signatures from fellow classmates on a petition and argued that the Muslim students were being discriminated against.
Elmedina stood up at four separate Board of Education meetings to argue her case, until last week they agreed. On May 13, 2021, there will be no school.
School Superintendent Paul Amoroso said in a statement, “[Elmedina] approached the board last summer. She made a very compelling case…it was well-researched and very thoughtful.”
The superintendent went on to say, “The most compelling part of her position is that we do have a fair amount of students in the strict who celebrate the Islamic holidays.”
Several school districts in New Jersey have already changed their calendars to include Islamic holidays, including Jersey City, Paterson and Wayne. Students in Edison have off for Diwali due to a large Hindu population.
Elmedina says that she is thankful for her mother and fellow students who supported her.
“I accomplished something. I know I did this and it’s going to be less stress on me and my mom who I always complain to when the day comes,” she says.
In recent years, Elmadina's mother told her she could go to school on the holiday so she wouldn't get behind in her classwork. But each time the teen declined, acknowledging her faith was important to her.