by Jenny Lee & Madeline Mechanic
The South administration announced the ratification of the Holiday Homework Bill during a faculty meeting on Jan. 10, granting students a homework-free day on the unobserved holidays of Lunar New Year, Diwali and Eid al-Fitr. Tests and projects are also not permitted to occur or be due the day after these holidays.
Senate President and member of South’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee senior Wasan Rafat has worked closely with the South administration to negotiate the bill since it was first proposed in 2021. Rafat said that the bill’s impact will cultivate cultural appreciation at South.
“It’s allowing everyone a chance for religious observance outside of school because we already don’t have a day off as it is,” she said. “It’s the least that we can do as a community.”
South’s Asian Student Organization (ASO) was the first to propose a homework-free Lunar New Year and has been pushing for the bill for years, ASO faculty advisor and chemistry teacher Suzy Drurey said.
“For a number of years, ASO has been running petitions to have Lunar New Year as not just an observed holiday, but actually a homework-free holiday,” she said. “And from 2019 we have sent out petitions and had club members sign it. We brought it up to the School Committee and everything.”
Senior Chloe Yu said that the recognition of ethnic holidays allows students like herself, who have previously felt their cultures overlooked at South, to feel acknowledged.
“I’m all about wanting these cultures to be recognized because for the longest time, even when I was in elementary school, I never really talked about them and why it was important. I learned it all from my parents and the books that I read in my free time,” she said.
The bill allows students to celebrate important holidays without making them choose between their culture and academic success. Sophomore Iswar Madhusudan said that in the past, homework has interfered with his celebration of Diwali.
“I had to write an English essay on Diwali, and I was completely busy the entirety of the day. Diwali is one of the only days of the year that I can truly celebrate my culture, and it’s the biggest Indian holiday for most,” he said. “When I had to do an essay, I was a little bit devastated by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to practice this holiday because I’ve been doing it since I was very little.”
Although the bill is a good start, junior Darya Rostami said that the school should take further steps to educate people on the cultures represented.
“I think [the bill] is enough when it comes to schoolwork, but I don’t think it’s enough when it comes to educating people about the culture,” she said. “It’s not even just Eid. Even the start of Ramadan, or just the month in general, is so beautiful to learn about. I don’t understand why the school doesn’t at least talk about it if there’s not a day off.”
History department head Jennifer Morrill said that she hopes that with greater education and discussion in classes, the community can further appreciate these holidays.
“Now that we are formally acknowledging some of the more dominant holidays in the cultures of students in the school, it would be a nice opportunity for teachers to pause briefly and say what that holiday is, and certainly in history classes,” she said.
The lasting impacts of the bill on the South community do not only include the cultivation of diversity and cultural appreciation, but also a demonstration to students that their cultures matter, Drurey said.
“You’ve acknowledged that the students have an identity, you’re acknowledging their culture and you’re recognizing how important it is to them,” she said. “It’s beneficial to all of us.”