On Thursday night, the school board met to talk about changing the date for Parkway Central’s graduation – the school with the largest Jewish population. Jewish parents and students at Parkway North High School also spoke out at the meeting to ask for a different date for graduation.
Board members ultimately tabled their decision for the time being. They could decide at their next meeting on Wednesday.
Typically, the school has graduation on a Thursday, but those plans were changed this year. All Parkway School District graduations were set for Saturday, May 19. The school board originally moved graduation from a Thursday to a Saturday in hopes it would be more accommodating, but now they may change again.
In the Jewish community, the Sabbath—which is a holy day—begins Friday evening and goes through Saturday at sundown.
Jews who observe the Sabbath in the traditional sense do not work or drive during that time; meaning driving to a gradation would be out of the question.
Seniors at Parkway Central who observe Sabbath in the traditional way said they were heartbroken to learn graduation was set for a Saturday.
“I don’t feel like I was specifically being targeted, but it did end up affecting, me so I felt like I was excluded from the rest of the group and I didn’t feel like I was a welcomed part of the community,” said Adina Levy, a senior.
A petition was started after one student realized some of her friends would not be able to attend graduation because of their religious beliefs. That petition now has over 2,000 signatures.
“There was an uproar from people who don’t traditionally celebrate the Sabbath in the Jewish way and that said if our friends can graduate on that day, we won’t graduate on that day and we heard them loud and clear and we never meant to exclude any body,” said School Board President Beth Feldman.
Graduations are set to take place at the St. Charles Family Arena.