|TP students petition for separate tables|
|April 22, 2008|
Seventh-grader Ryan Vandewiel didn't quite understand something during his lunch hour at Prairie View School in Tinley Park.
Muslim students at the school could sit at a separate table, away from other non-Muslim students, during Ramadan, which in 2007 was from Sept. 13 to Oct. 12.
During Ramadan, practicing Muslims fast from pre-dawn until sunset. Prairie View Principal Joel Martin said this separate table is available to ease the temptation for these kids and "to provide the best environment for the kids in the long-run."
Vandeweil saw it as segregation, and thought Catholic students should be able to have a separate table during the Lenten season, a 40-day stretch in which practicing Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays.
He started a petition and had around 100 students sign it. This was around the second or third week of Lent, according to Vandeweil and Martin.
"It wasn't so much that Catholics or I would feel tempted during Lent. I'm a vegetarian," the 13-year-old said. "I felt left out because there were separate tables offered to a different religion."
Benton said he met with one of the students behind with the petition and explained the purpose of the separate table.
He said the level of temptation between Catholics and Muslims during their respectful fasting seasons is not balanced because students of the Muslim faith cannot consume food or drink during the period between sun up and down. Catholics can have food and some of their other favorite consumptions, Martin said.
"It's a different level," he said. "If (Muslim students) have the late lunch, they could be going on six hours of not eating. Their time spent is best-spent not tempted. We just want to provide the best situation for these kids to focus the rest of the day."
Martin also explained how this was the first year a student of any other faith has asked for a separate table. And now that it has been brought up, administrators will get together and mull the options.
Though, he said, it is unlikely changes will be made.
Vandeweil sees it differently than Martin, however. He basically said temptation is relative, and reiterated that it was never really about temptation, but about segregation.
"I think that if someone is good in their faith they can (abstain) on their own, because they truly believe in what they are doing," he said. "Everybody should be offered a separate table for their beliefs or nobody should."
Principal Martin said there are about 15 Muslim students per lunch hour that are offered a separate table, but he noted not all choose to accept the table.
Martin added that the situation is still up for debate and will be looked at.
"We will have an open mind and listen to the arguments," he said.