06/06/2012 12:28 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2012

Councilman George Leventhal Asked Montgomery County Schools To Close For Muslim Holidays

Montgomery County councilman, George Levanthal, asked local schools to shut down for two Muslim holidays: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.

"The schools close all the time. The schools close for parental guidance, the schools close for teacher training," Leventhal told The Washington Examiner. "I just don't think it's that much of an inconvenience to close the schools, and I do believe observant Muslims are entitled to the same courtesy extended for years to Christians and Jews."

But according to, school systems in Maryland cannot make the final decision on whether to close schools simply for religious holidays.

Attorney Rochelle Eisenberg, of Towson-based Pessin Katz Law, P.A., specializes in education and employment law and says that school systems have to abide by the First Amendment's Establishment Clause which prohibits the government from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion."

"What you have to do is determine that there are so many absences in the school system, between students and staff, that the school system cannot be properly run," Eisenberg told Gazette.

But Leventhal told The Washington Examiner that the school-aged Muslim population is growing and it isn't fair that the school closes for important religious holidays for some faiths and not others. Students in the county are off for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Monday, as well as a number of nonreligious holidays.

Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the school system, wrote to The Washington Examiner, "We appreciate Councilman Leventhal's letter and will certainly take it under consideration during our calendar-setting process, which includes parents, community members and staff."

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told Gazette, there are an estimated 7 million Muslims in the U.S., and about 250,000 in the D.C. area. The number has doubled during the last 10 years, he said.

No schools in the Washington area close down for Muslim Holidays, however districts in Cambridge, Mass., Burlington, Vt., Dearborn, Mich. and Trenton, N.J have moved in this direction, as reported by

Montgomery County schools have made these two holidays non-testing days, giving students a lawful absence.