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Northampton County EA Clears Way for Religious Leave

Educators in Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore had a division-wide policy that allowed one day of “religious leave” each year. That’s a nice benefit. Trouble was, trying to use it was confusing. Was it a paid day? Did it count as one of an employee’s personal days?

Only the superintendent could designate a day officially as religious leave, so only he could answer those questions.

“If it counts as a personal day,” says Ted Warner, president of the Northampton County Education Association, “then it’s not really religious leave. It’s just a personal day with a different label.” That’s not especially helpful for school employees who celebrate non-Christian holidays, since the school calendar is more closely aligned with Christian celebrations.

After members brought their confusion about religious leave to Warner, he brought it to the county’s school board, after talking with a VEA attorney and others, in an attempt to get clarification for all school employees. Hearing Warner’s presentation, the superintendent agreed that the policy wasn’t easy to follow and promised to look into it.

Not long after, he made good on that promise and today, NCEA members have easy access to a day of religious leave that does not count as a personal day.

“That's a small victory, I know,” says Warner, a special education teacher, “but we saw an unclear policy, and got clarification and a positive change. The result is helpful to our members.”



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