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Legal Holidays; Accommodation for Religious Observances

Superintendents and Charter School Leaders
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
September 8, 2014


With this memo, I am enclosing a list of Massachusetts legal holidays and major religious holidays for the 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and the 2016-2017school years. School officials have said this information is useful in planning the school calendar, accommodating students and staff who observe religious holidays, and determining possible days of low attendance. For information on other religious holidays observed by members of religions represented in your school community, I encourage you to contact local clergy and check Interfaith Calendar website.

State and federal laws require schools to make reasonable accommodation to the religious needs of students and employees in observance of holy days. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B, section 4(1)(A), addresses this issue with respect to employees. With respect to students, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151C, section 2B, reads in relevant part as follows:

Any student in an educational or vocational training institution . . . who is unable, because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study or work requirement on a particular day shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study or work requirement which he may have missed because of such absence on any particular day; provided, however, that such makeup examination or work shall not create an unreasonable burden upon such school. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such opportunity. No adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to any student because of his availing himself of the provisions of this section.

Schools may meet their obligation to accommodate students by excusing individual absences for religious observance or by adjusting the school calendar to provide a school year of at least 180 school days, while taking into account possible days of low attendance due to religious holidays.

Please share this information with other school administrators in your district and school. We hope you will find it helpful.


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Holiday Observances in Massachusetts

Last Updated: April 27, 2016
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