Students have legal rights to yom tov and Shabbat observance

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Last year, Agudath Israel’s Constituent Services department received phone calls from college students whose professors had threatened that they must attend classes on Rosh Hashana or risk failing their courses and/or being expelled.

Unfortunately, few people are aware that there are clear and strict laws in New York and other states which protect students from such discrimination. This professor’s behavior was patently illegal.

With Jewish holidays on the horizon, Agudath Israel is once again publicizing this law as a public service. If any student has a problem with being forced to violate his or her religious  observance, he or she can show this law to the professor or school administration.

The following is the text of the New York law. For other states, plase call the Legal Services Department of Agudath Israel of America at 212-797-9000 ext. 335.

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New York Education Law § 224-a. Students Unable Because of Religious Beliefs to Register or Attend Classes on Certain Days.

1. No person shall be expelled from or be refused admission as a student to an institution of higher education for the reason that he or she is unable, because of his or her religious beliefs, to register or attend classes or to participate in any examination, study or work requirements on a particular day or days.

2. Any student in an institution of higher education who is unable, because of his or her religious beliefs, to attend classes on a particular day or days shall, because of such absence on the particular day or days, be excused from any examination or any study or work requirements.

3. It shall be the responsibility of the faculty and of the administrative officials of each institution of higher education to make available to each student who is absent from school, because of his or her religious beliefs, an equivalent opportunity to register for classes or make up any examination, study or work requirements which he or she may have missed because of such absence on any particular day or days. No fees of any kind shall be charged by the institution for making available to the said student such equivalent opportunity.

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