New York Times writer Troy Closson summed it up best: freedom of religion against the goal of social integration. That is how he described the conundrum which is coed swimming classes at Stuyvesant High School in a recent interview. You see, Stuyvesant High School requires students to take swimming as a graduation requirement. The issue? Last year it canceled an all-girls swim class and began only offering a coed option. This puts some Muslim students in a hard spot as they are required to practice modesty and may be uncomfortable wearing a bathing suit in front of boys.
Students were disappointed with the news since they had the expectation that the school would accommodate their religion, but Closson says that schools across the city interpret the Department of Education’s guidelines differently. For example, some schools have offered up halal meals at lunch or alternative assignments for religious reasons. But when some students have requested space to use for prayer, schools have been reluctant based on the DOE’s guidelines on prayer in school.
So what do DOE guidelines say? Students are allowed to pray in school, but schools aren’t allowed to designate a special room for prayer to avoid the appearance of support for one particular religion. After students decided to take a stance on the issue and it brought some media attention, the DOE said that students who need accommodations would be able to receive the full honors via alternative classes. Read more here.