Muslim girls at Stuyvesant High School in New York City have raised complaints regarding the cancellation of girls-only swimming classes. The girls, due to their religious beliefs and the need to be modest, find it uncomfortable to participate in co-ed swimming classes with boys present.
“I’m not comfortable swimming with boys because I’m Muslim and it’s really hard for us,” Tasnim Chowdhury, a senior who once participated in the swimming classes. “I can’t believe the school would change it because it’s been a fundamental part of Stuy, and now it’s changed all of a sudden.”
The swimming classes are a requirement for sophomore students that desire to graduate with a diploma. However, the cancellation of the classes has created a dilemma for the female Muslim students, forcing others to quit the co-ed classes or participate in the class while wearing the form-fitting burkini. The burkini covers the entire body except for the face, feet, and hands. It is, however, figure-hugging and even more so when a person wearing it gets wet.
“Religious swimwear is going to stick to your body when you leave the swimming pool, so it’s still just awkward,” a 16-year-old sophomore told the NY Post.
The students who decided to participate in the co-ed classes while wearing the burkini have done so despite feeling uncomfortable in the beginning and gradually adjusting to the situation.
Brian Moran, Stuveysant’s Assistant Principal of School Safety, Security, and Physical Education, said the reason for the cancellation of the girls-only swimming classes was due to a clash in programming that the course created at the school. According to Moran, the girls-only swimming classes were in high demand and were clashing with science classes. The swimming classes also require that a teacher and a lifeguard be present at every session. Moran reportedly suggested that only those who need the class should be able to attend prior to the girls-only swimming class’ cancellation. He also mentioned starting a vetting process that would require letters from religious leaders stating that students need to be in the girls-only swimming classes. It does not appear, however, that those options were valid and applicable to school policies.
According to the NY Post, NYC Public Schools officials claimed that Stuyvesant High School might be violating the department’s Regulation A630 which demands that schools grant accommodation of religious observances and practices when possible.
An administrator in the department said that since Stuyvesant High School made the swimming classes a requirement for students to graduate with a diploma, the school should ensure the right environment is provided for all students to participate comfortably.