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Make Lunar New Year a School Holiday, Pols Say

 Chinatown hosted its annual Lunar New Year parade on Sunday, Jan. 29 2012.
Chinatown hosted its annual Lunar New Year parade on Sunday, Jan. 29 2012.
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Sarah Tan/DNAinfo

NEW YORK CITY — Politicians representing communities with large Asian populations are urging their fellow state officials to make the Asian Lunar New Year a school holiday.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents Chinatown, joined State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblyman Ron Kim from Flushing and Rep. Grace Meng, who was a Flushing assemblywoman before being elected to the House of Representatives last year, outside of P.S. 20 in Flushing on Thursday, where they argued that young Asian American students should be given the right to stay home and celebrate with family.

"We pride ourselves on being one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the world,” Squadron said. “It's time for our school calendar to reflect the huge number of kids whose families observe Lunar New Year."

Under current state law, students who celebrate the holiday may miss a full day of classes as an “excused” absence, which is absence marked on the student's record, Squadron's office said.

The new legislation, sponsored by Squadron and Kim, and co-sponsored by Stavisky, would make the Asian Lunar New Year a school holiday in areas with Asian American populations of at least 7.5 percent.

Meng said she tried to pass in her time in the Assembly, and is encouraged that it's being taken up after she's moved on.

"Making the Lunar New Year a school holiday would recognize the important customs and culture of Asian Americans, and it would highlight the vital role that the Asian American community plays in our city," Meng said. "I am happy to continue my support for this important measure.”

The officials are also asking the Department of Education to set up the holiday itself, or to move "Brooklyn-Queens Day," in which students already have off, to the Lunar New Year date.

"Lunar New Year is a time when families, from near and far, come together to celebrate," Stavisky said. "A holiday for schools with large Asian-American student bodies, like many schools in Flushing and other areas of New York City, would show deference and appreciation for the Lunar New Year."

The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.