When Montgomery County Council member George L. Leventhal sent a letter to school leaders late last month asking for schools to be closed on two Muslim holidays, he cited the county's significant Muslim population and religious fairness.

But school systems in the state cannot declare days off — in this case, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr — solely because they are religious holidays, no matter population demographics, said Rochelle Eisenberg, of Towson-based Pessin Katz Law P.A., a lawyer who specializes in education and employment law.

School systems must base the decision on attendance rates to avoid violating the establishment clause, which prohibits lawmakers from exerting religious preference, Eisenberg said, citing a 1999 Maryland court ruling.

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