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A Step Towards Inclusiveness: New York’s Hicksville Public Schools Declare Diwali as Holiday

The Hindu Indian-American community have welcomed the inclusion of Diwali, most popular of their festival, as holiday by Hicksville Union Free School District (HUFSD) in New York State

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Diwali
Representational Image. Source-Pixabay
New York, Mar 28, 2017: About 3 million Hindus reside in USA. The Hindu Indian-American community have welcomed the inclusion of Diwali, most popular of their festival, as holiday by Hicksville Union Free School District (HUFSD) in New York State on its School Calendar for 2017-2018, thus closing schools and offices on October 19, as reported by Merinews. HUFSD operates ten schools.
Nearby Syosset Central School District, East Meadow School District, Half Hollow Hills Central School District, East Williston Union Free School District and Herricks Union Free School District all recently declared Diwali as an official holiday. Mineola Union Free School District announced that no home work or examinations would be given on Diwali, reports suggest.
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Rajan Zed, distinguished Hindu statesman and President of Universal Society of Hinduism, had said that, that this decision is a step in the right direction and had further urged all other public school districts and private-charter-independent schools in New York State to do the same.

Zed, had said that it’s a positive thing to do in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at schools around the state, as it was important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of these pupils. He had said that, without an official holiday Hindu students would be in an unnecessary disadvantage for missing tests/examinations/papers, assignments, class work, etc., by taking a day-off to observe Diwali.

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If schools had declared other religious holidays, why not Diwali, Zed asked. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Zed added

Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would enable New York State students to be well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.

Zed urged New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Education Department Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and New York State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia, to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the 728 school districts, and persuading the private-charter-independent schools to do the same.

Zed thanked HUFSD Board of Education President Phil Heckler and other Board members for supporting Diwali holiday.

Prepared by Upama Bhattacharya. Twitter @Upama_myself

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Measles Cases in US Continue to Rise, With Most New Cases in New York

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports outbreaks in 24 states

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Measles Cases, US
FILE - Measles, mumps and rubella vaccines are seen in a cooler at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, New York, March 27, 2019. VOA

Federal health officials report 41 new cases of measles across the U.S. last week, bringing the number of total cases for the year to 880 — the highest number recorded since 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports outbreaks in 24 states, with only the very Deep South and Northern Plains spared.

The CDC says outbreaks in several states, including California, Georgia, Michigan and New York, are linked to travelers who are suspected of bringing back the virus from countries with large measles outbreaks, such as Israel, the Philippines and Ukraine.

The CDC recommends vaccinations for everyone older than 12 months, except those who already had the disease as children and have become immune.

Measles Cases, US, New York
Federal health officials report 41 new cases of measles across the U.S. last week. Pixabay

The virus has spread among school-age children whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them. Parents who do not vaccinate their children often cite religious beliefs or the concerns the vaccine may cause autism or other health problems, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

The World Health Organization says parents who refuse to inoculate their children against such diseases is one of the top 10 threats to global health.

The measles vaccine, first available in the 1960s, is considered safe and effective by most public health experts, who say that it also can save lives.

The measles virus is highly contagious and is spread primarily by coughing and sneezing.

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It is still a common disease in many parts of the world. It was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000 with only a handful of cases reported in the U.S. most every year since then.

Last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released an update on measles activity in the Americas. It said 12 countries have reported cases in 2019: Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, the U.S., Uruguay, and Venezuela. (VOA)