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A Navajo lawmaker said Arizona schools must treat eclipse like other religious holidays

A Navajo state senator is calling on public schools in Arizona to give Indigenous students and staff time off to observe next week’s solar eclipse. 

Sen. Theresa Hatathlie (D-Coal Mine Canyon) said many Indigenous cultures consider eclipses sacred. 

“Throughout the years, when these events happened, I, myself, took the liberty and the privilege to keep my children home,” Hatathlie said. “And so it's very important that we observe that as Indigenous peoples.”

Hatathlie said some schools already allow students and teachers to stay home to observe these cultural practices, but some people do not have that opportunity, especially those who live outside of tribal communities. 

In a press release, Hatathlie pointed to state and federal law that she said protects students and teachers who want to miss class to observe the eclipse.

She cited a state law that requires public schools to adopt policies “governing the excuse of pupils for religious purposes.” Those policies may allow students “to be excused from school attendance for religious purposes,” according to the law.

Additionally, Hatathlie referenced the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating on the basis of religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices.

The solar eclipse will be visible in Arizona on Monday, starting after 10 a.m., according to NASA. 

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.