A man calling himself the leader of a Nevada-based Hindu group is asking Marquardt Elementary District 15 and Queen Bee Elementary District 16 in Glendale Heights to add the Hindu festival of Diwali to their holiday calendars.
School officials say recognizing the date on their calendars likely would not be a problem, but giving all students the day off to celebrate would be.
Rajan Zed, who said he is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, sent an email to school board members in both districts saying he is focusing on them because of Glendale Heights' large Asian population.
An Internet search for the society's headquarters leads to Zed's personal website.
Illinois State Report Cards indicate 13 percent of Marquardt students are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, while Queen Bee has 21 percent. Hispanic students make up the largest student percentage in both districts at 44 percent, while white students follow at 25 percent.
"It is important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home with their children," Zed said in a statement.
He added during a phone interview that he has not contacted board members directly and hopes his email alone will spur them to action.
Diwali is popularly known as the "festival of lights" and celebrates the acts of several gods and goddesses, Zed said. The date varies annually, but it occurs between mid-October and mid-November.
For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated by families performing traditional activities in their homes.
Not all board members received the email as of Tuesday, and spokeswomen at both districts said their schools can legally only offer nonattendance days for national holidays.
The districts' school calendars already list important Christian, Jewish and Muslim holidays.
District 16 board member Michael Reich said he doesn't think his board plans to pursue discussions on the issue.
"We have various religious holidays marked on our calendars and have excused absences, certainly," Reich said. "But I'm not sure at this point any particular action is appropriate. What was sent was a press release and no one has actually approached us."
• Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson contributed to this report.