In most schools in the US, there's a "spring break" or "spring recess" that coincides with Passover. It is my understanding that under Jewish law, Jews can't attend classes during Passover or certain other holidays. However, there seems to be a trend towards eliminating spring recess from school schedules, and I can't shake the feeling that this is discriminatory and illegal as it would put Jewish students at a disadvantage.

Under United States federal law, would requiring students to attend classes during religious holidays constitute discrimination, exposing the school to liability under civil rights laws? What if the school provided make-up work for students who cannot attend classes but otherwise held classes during such holidays? (Answers that cover this from a federal standpoint are preferred, but if a state is required for an answer, assume New York.)

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    A school can be sued for anything, prevailing is another matter.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 2, 2017 at 16:59
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    A great number of days are holidays in several religions, yet there is no break over the time they occur. Isn't this already discrimination, then, according to your feeling? No, of course not. The loss of a privilege nobody else possessed is not the same as the gain of a disadvantage. Resolving the conflict between personal religious and public academic obligations is on the religious person, not the public
    – user4657
    Oct 2, 2017 at 19:47
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    Most Jewish Holidays (definitely Passover) are celebrated after sunset, which, given the general time of the year, would be well past the dismissal from public schools, so the issue is moot here. Passover occurs on the first full moon following the Spring Equinox and coincides with Easter (the Last Supper was a Passover celebration, so Easter is always the first Sunday following the First Full Moon following the Spring Equinox). Spring Break does not universally coincide with these dates. School Calendars are not set by federal law but local laws. State law determines the number of days.
    – hszmv
    Nov 21, 2017 at 14:28
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    @bwDraco: Thanks. I'm not Jewish and only celebrated the first "day" with a Jewish family. To my recollection, the nature of the celebrations never affected their school schedules (the mother was a teacher).
    – hszmv
    Nov 21, 2017 at 15:40
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    Spring breaks in the United States happen over the course of about a month and a half, depending heavily on the part of the U.S. in question. Even in the same part of the U.S., though, it's not uncommon for spring breaks to vary by a week or two between different schools. There is typically no correlation intended between spring break and Passover. I've never personally been aware of a school whose spring break moved around (on the Gregorian calendar) from year to year to coincide with Passover (which is based on a lunar calendar, not a solar one.)
    – reirab
    Oct 15, 2019 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


A school district has been sued for something like that. In Church of God, Etc. v. Amarillo Indep. Sch., 511 F. Supp. 613, plaintiffs successfully sued the school district "to enjoin the enforcement of the Amarillo School District's absence policy which limits the number of excused absences for religious holidays to two days each school year", where "A fundamental tenet of the Church of God is that members must abstain from secular activity on seven annual holy days". The school district imposed an absence polity where "School work missed may be made up whether an absence is excused or unexcused", and "Excused absences shall be granted to students for a maximum of 2 days for religious holidays in each school year". The court concluded that "This policy poses an unquestionable burden on the Plaintiffs' religious belief", and "This burden is not ameliorated by the make-up work provision. The provision does not require a teacher to evaluate the work made up. It in fact directs the teacher to enter a zero for that work". In this case "Summary judgment is granted and judgment rendered enjoining the enforcement of the Amarillo Independent School District's excused absence policy insofar as it limits the number of excused absences for religious holidays". This is not a matter of religious discrimination, this is a First Amendment issue. The policy is in violation of the Free Exercise clause.

Eliminating spring break per se is not a problem: doing so and providing no excused absences is the problem. In the above case, there was clear a religious principle of the church to the effect that one must be off the clock on the holiday. As far as I know, there is no requirement to abstain from work or school on Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. Nevertheless, in recognition of New Jersey state law which allows any student to take off a religious holiday – including Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, and dozens more – the Board of Education has prepared a list of such holidays, which includes Wiccan, Hindu, Baha'i, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Church of Scientology (and so on) religious holidays.

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