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NHS school board approves school closure for Diwali

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When student Nikita Tayal began her presentation for the New Hope-Solebury School District’s Board of School Directors during its public meeting this June, she started with a call for empathy.
“How would you feel if you weren’t given time to celebrate the most important holiday of the year for you?” This question, posed to lend the perspective of underrepresented populations, culminated her efforts to request that schools be closed in recognition of the Diwali holiday. Those efforts included assembling a student petition, examining other school districts and their policies, researching the advocacy of other student agents of change, meeting with the board’s Policy Advisory Committee, and finally, making a public request on behalf of the school’s growing Hindu community.
According to Dr. Charles Lentz, New Hope-Solebury’s superintendent, “In our school community, it is important to us that students feel their voices are valued. We actively engage them in our committees and teach them how to advocate appropriately through the system to get what they are seeking.”
During her presentation, Tayal emphasized the importance of Diwali and its designation as the most sacred Hindu holiday. She argued that with eight hours of the day in classes, hours of homework, and time spent at athletic practices, students trying to recognize the holiday when it falls on a school day are left with approximately 15 minutes to celebrate. Or, alternatively, a daunting amount of work to make up.
As the board deliberated, special attention was called to the increasing population of students who celebrate Diwali, an estimated 5-10% of enrolled students. Ultimately, the request was approved.

“As our community grows and diversifies, it is important that school district policies keep pace,” board President Liz Sheehan commented. “The board is proud of students like Nikita who advocate on behalf of their beliefs and seek to make change within their community.” Montu Patel, who also serves on the board of directors, appreciated Tayal’s thoughtful presentation and called her a “shining example” of the student leaders being produced at New Hope-Solebury School District.
Following the board’s approval, Tayal shared how much the decision meant to her, her family and to the New Hope-Solebury Hindu community. “I’m just really happy that our school is showing diversity and acceptance of this kind of request. I know many other Hindus who are so appreciative too.”
Tayal’s mother, Kanika, expressed her pride that her daughter has “served as a voice for the growing Hindu population in the district … and that the school board has lived up to its mission statement of cultural diversity and inclusiveness.”
As she considers her role leading this initiative and its outcome, Tayal offers advice to other young students hoping to be agents of change. “You can think … oh, it will never happen. But this experience changed my mindset. We can make a change in how the school is.”


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