Coppell ISD denies request to make Diwali a school holiday

Coppell ISD has rejected a request to consider a day off from school during Diwali. The Hindu festival of lights is India's biggest celebration of the year.

Srishti Kumar is a college student at Texas A&M University. She grew up playing the harmonium and connecting with her Hindu heritage celebrating Diwali.

“It’s a very personal feeling,” she said. “It makes you feel very satisfied inside."

Kumar is hopeful Coppell ISD — a district where close to half the students are Asian — will reconsider adding a holiday to recognize the spiritual tradition of the Indian culture.

"At least setting a day off from school,” she said. “Maybe it doesn't motivate kids to come to the temple, but it at least establishes the fact that it's important to go back, remember your heritage, take pride in it and not let it slip through your fingers.”

Diwali is a five-day celebration that honors the bounty of nature. There are feasts, gifts, worship services and fireworks.

Coppell ISD discussed the request to consider a school holiday for Diwali but rejected it, saying the separation of church and state forbids a religious holiday.

Supporters of the request point to the day off for Good Friday. However, the district says the date isn't designated as a religious holiday. Instead, it's viewed as a professional development day and bad weather make-up day.

"What we've requested instead — still requesting and what's happening in other states — is not to call it a religious holiday but to acknowledge it as a professional development day, like for Good Friday or a bad weather day,” explained Dr. Pankaj Jain, who has a fifth grader and a senior in the school district.

An online petition drive is still active even though the district has rejected the initial request.

“I just think some people are a bit uncomfortable with this kind of request that has come from very recent immigrants of India,” Jain said.

Diwali fluctuates but falls during October or November.

Coppell ISD says it will discuss the calendar on January 22 but says the Diwali request is not an option.

The district says students can still request an excused absence for school to celebrate a religious holiday or observance.