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  • Writer's pictureArizona Senate Democrats

Hatathlie urges Arizona public schools to provide Indigenous students and teachers the opportunity to observe the Solar Eclipse

Arizona State Senate 

1700 W. Washington St. 

Phoenix, AZ 85007 

  

Press Release  

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

April 4, 2024


PHOENIX - Senator Theresa Hatathlie (LD6) released the following statement urging schools to work with Indigenous students and educators to provide adequate accommodations to observe the solar eclipse. 


Although solar eclipses last for mere moments, it has been occurring for eons. Throughout much of this time, Indigenous cultures, especially Native American tribes, have regarded these events as a sacred time of deep reflection.  


Navajo and Diné communities will often remain home, engaging in reflection or prayer during this intimate celestial moment. Other Indigenous tribal communities utilize this opportunity to pass down cultural teachings, impart wisdom, and ensure younger generations learn the sacred traditions of their culture.  


Because of the significance of these beliefs among various Indigenous and tribal cultures, there are several public schools that have found space within their school calendars to allow all students and personnel to stay home to observe their cultural practices. However, not all tribal students and educators reside on tribal nations and have not been offered the same flexibility to stay home. 


For Indigenous students who will be observing traditional practices for the Eclipse on April 8, state law provides them the opportunity to be excused from school attendance. In fact, A.R.S. § 15-806 mandates that governing boards of public schools adopt policies concerning the excuse of student absences for religious purposes and to participate in religious exercises.  


Furthermore, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion, encompassing the obligation to accommodate an employee's sincerely  held religious beliefs or practices except where such accommodations would pose an undue hardship, which must exceed a mere minimal burden on operation of the business. 


Senator Theresa Hatathlie (LD6) released the following statement urging schools to work with Indigenous students and educators to provide adequate accommodations to observe the solar eclipse:  


“The Solar Eclipse embodies a moment of solemnity and reverence. I want Indigenous families to be empowered by the knowledge that their children have the legal protection to be excused from school in order to practice the traditions of their Indigenous culture. 


As for Indigenous educators, I have been made aware that multiple of them have proactively communicated with their schools and expressed their intent to take a day of leave on April 8 in accordance with their spiritual beliefs surrounding the Solar Eclipse. However, some schools and districts have denied their requests for leave citing that too many absent educators would interrupt the operations of the school. 


I find it disappointing that Indigenous educators are facing challenges in being granted the flexibility to observe their cultural and religious traditions. 


I implore our public schools in Arizona, the state that is home to 22 Indigenous tribes, to acknowledge the profound spiritual significance of the Solar Eclipse. I advocate for our public schools to honor Indigenous students and educators by granting them, upon their request, a day of personal leave to practice their religious freedom – a privilege frequently afforded to Western cultures.  


It is important to recognize that educators devote much of their personal time to their profession, driven by their passion for the work they do. It is not a burden to ask that their spiritual beliefs be respected, and their employers find the accommodations necessary for them to honor their traditional practices while on personal leave.”  


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