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Strange CT School Holiday Law

By Ryan C. McKeen

Connecticut General Statutes Section 1-4 is one of the more interesting statutes on the books.  Check this out:

When any such holiday, except holidays in January and December, occurs on a school day, each local and regional board of education may close the public schools under its jurisdiction for such day or hold a session of the public schools on such day, provided, if a session is held, the board shall require each school to hold a suitable nonsectarian educational program in observance of such holiday. If a holiday in January or December occurs on a school day, there shall be no session of the public schools on such day.

If I’m reading this right, a local school board could decide to hold school on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day,  and Memorial Day so long as there is an educational program in observance of the holiday.

However, there can be no school on Martin Luther King Day and Christmas. Educational programs won’t suffice.

Why is this interesting?

I think it’s an elaborate tap dance by our legislature to avoid the appearance of endorsing religion (yes, I know Christmas is a secular holiday) and at the same time insuring there is no school on Christmas.

The statute smells of a smoke filled room at the Capitol.

Legislator: I want to make sure there’s no school on Christmas. I don’t care about any other holiday but kids shouldn’t go to school on Christmas.

Legislative Lawyer: I’m not sure we can do that. It seems like an endorsement of religion.

Legislator: Make it happen!

Legislative Lawyer: Well, if we said no school on holidays in December and January then it makes it harder to say that we are endorsing religion. Martin Luther King Day isn’t a religious holiday.

Legislator: Brilliant! Write it so that kids don’t go to school on Christmas and Martin Luther King Day!