Headline: School Board keeps religion out of school calendar
No one smote by lightning as result
With a sensible vote this week that again made Good Friday a school day and not a day-off-at-the-beach, the Hillsborough County School Board got one step closer to ending a mess that once embarrassed us all the way to Bill O'Reilly.
But the board also learned of a disturbing problem from within: students being told not to come to school on Good Friday last year even though it was officially a school day — told by some of the system's own bus drivers and teachers.
But back to that in a minute. First we get to bask in the marked lack of smoting.
The battle began a few years back in talk of which religious holidays should or shouldn't be school days off, including a Muslim holiday. In the backlash over the very idea came discussion on making the calendar secular, or without religious holidays.
Good Friday became a point of contention. Many use it as a driving day for Easter weekend, or for a day at the beach or mall. Heck, other school districts managed to hold school on Good Friday without much trouble. And students can always take off religious holidays without penalty.
Then there's that interesting concept of a calendar being equal for all religions.
Not to mention the whole separation of church and state thing.
So the board, unaware of the fire and brimstone sure to follow, voted to remove religious holidays, including Good Friday, Yom Kippur and the all-important Monday-after-Easter, and no, Christmas was not affected.
A couple of then-county commissioners — bet you can guess which ones — decried our godlessness all the way to national TV. I'm not sure there were actually predictions of smoting, but it was certainly implied.
So a bullied School Board reversed itself, and later tried to right the course, again attempting a non-religious calendar last year. (They got a breather this year since Good Friday fell on spring break).
Little did they know of the potential trouble from within.
Forty percent of bus drivers took the day off, causing lots of routes to be cancelled, and nearly 60 percent of students didn't show.
At their meeting this week, school officials talked about reports that their own teachers and bus drivers were telling students that it was perfectly okay not to show up.
Officials vowed to make it clear to school employees that this would be a workday and a school day, and everyone will be expected to act accordingly.
Then they voted to do the right thing and try it again.
Actually, it was pretty routine, compared to the controversy of years past.
A rabbi or two showed up to courteously request a calendar that treats all religions equally, a couple of other people disagreed. Then a quick vote, with only board member Jennifer Faliero predictably dissenting.
Done, sans smoting.
This time around, however, school officials need to affirmatively take those aforementioned steps to keep their decision from being undermined from within.
They need to have zero tolerance for the wink-and-nod and outright sabotage, with a clear message from the top that this will be an orderly, ordinary school day like any other.
And no one gets to smote.