Q&A – What Percentage of South Florida’s Students Practice Islam?

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Q&A – What Percentage of South Florida’s Students Practice Islam? 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.       

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com      

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Today’s Entry: Brian- I was surprised to hear that Florida’s three largest counties all shutdown school for Ramadan. Are there really that many Muslims in SFL or is this political correctness run amok? 

Bottom Line: Wednesday marked the first time South Florida’s TriCounty (Broward, Miami Dade & Palm Beach) collectively closed schools for the day in observation of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. The Broward and Miami Dade School Districts had previously observed Ramadan, however a vote taken by the Palm Beach County School Board in August of 2022, marked April 10th of 2024 as the first observation within its school district (the school board also authorized the observation next year as well with schools set to close on March 31st of 2025). The school district’s calendar marked the observation as a “Spring Holiday”. This is consistent with days off for observations in other religions which, for example, are labeled “Winter Break” for Christmas, etc. As for how many Muslim students there are who may observe Ramadan and whether the decision by the school district was an act of political correctness... 

As you’d likely expect Christianity is the most prominent religion observed throughout South Florida, followed by Judaism. With that said, Islam is the third most observed religion in the community – though it comprises a small percentage of the overall community. Here’s the breakout of Muslims by county: 

Obviously, the overall observant Muslim population isn’t large in the context of the student population. Before diving into the potential political considerations of the decision to close South Florida’s schools in observance of Ramadan, there’s the philosophical consideration about what the percentage of children impacted by a religious holiday should be before consideration is paid for closing schools for the observance of holidays. There are dozens of observed religions within Florida including populations of Buddhists and Hindus which number somewhat similarly to Muslims in certain communities.  

Notably, as it pertains to the overall consideration about decisions made by local school districts based upon the religion of a study body population, the Muslim population statewide averages 0.9%. In other words, of the observant counties, only Broward has a Muslim population that’s larger within its community (and even there it’s only a tenth of a percent difference), than the state average overall. That highlights the subjectivity of the decision to observe Ramadan by especially the Miami Dade and Palm Beach County School Boards. As for whether the decision was motivated by either political correctness or some kind of other political consideration... 

The summer 2022 vote by the Palm Beach County School Board happened during what appears to have been the peak of the DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) push by social justice groups across the country. The school board had been prodded by the South Florida Muslim Federation to recognize Ramadan districtwide. Following the vote three school board members, Karen Brill, Erica Whitfield and Alexandria Ayala, who were responsible for the push to observe Ramadan were recognized at an event hosted in their honor by the South Florida Muslim Federation. The Federation noted that “The school board members were extremely supportive of the Muslim community and expressed their wish to continue to do more.” The Federation also noted the occasion as “a key milestone” in support of diversity and equity. It was also around this time that the Palm Beach County School Board instituted a DEI policy that the Florida Board of Education found to be in violation of state law.  

One can infer from that sequence of events what the motivation by the school district may have been. As always there are two sides to stories and one side to facts and the facts are these:  

  • The Palm Beach County School District doesn’t have an above average Muslim population  
  • The School District is one of a select few closing schools to observe Ramadan 
  • The vote by the School Board to observe Ramadan coincided with an (illegal) DEI policy push by the Board 

Prior to the Ramadan observations by South Florida’s school districts the common practice was to make special accommodations/excused absences for students taking the day off to observe the holiday with their families. Incidentally, that’s the standard policy for any student, regardless of religion, observing a religious holiday not observed by the school districts.  

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