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Jewish family sues Michigan high school for scheduling graduation on Shavuot

An 18-year-old and her parents allegedly gave Portage Northern High School years of notice about holiday schedules.

Graduation. Credit: Pixabay.
Graduation. Credit: Pixabay.

For the last decade, the family of 18-year-old Minaleah Koffron says it shared advance notice of Jewish holiday schedules with the Portage Public Schools—a school district in southern Michigan almost halfway between Chicago and Detroit—via letters, phone calls and in-person meetings.

Portage Northern High School still scheduled this year’s graduation on Friday, May 26—the first day of Shavuot. The holiday starts on the evening of Thursday, May 25 and lasts through sundown on Saturday, May 27.

“The message was and remains clear—my religious identity is not as important as the identities of Christian kids at my school. In the eyes of the school district, I am a lesser citizen,” said Koffron, who will have to be a no-show at her own graduation. She also had to skip the junior prom, which was scheduled on April 6, the first day of Passover.

When the Koffron family met with Nate Ledlow on March 3 to discuss the problem, the interim principal said he worried about getting “300 angry emails” from other parents, according to the family. He said he would look into other dates.

In a follow-up meeting on March 8, the Koffron family alleges, Ledlow acknowledged that he had never intended to consider switching dates and wouldn’t do so barring an order from the district superintendent.

“Even if the decision to schedule graduation on a Jewish holy day was an oversight, the decision to keep it is not,” said Koffron.

She has sued, alleging that the principal violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the state and U.S. constitutions. A judge granted a restraining order with arguments slated for May 12.

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