Schools' plans for MLK holiday prompt objections
Kids got to play in the snow this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, but it's back to school on Monday, holiday or no holiday.
January 14th, 2011
04:58 PM ET

Schools' plans for MLK holiday prompt objections

Some school districts in the South are making up for  days missed because of this week's snow and ice by requiring students to attend class on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a decision that does not sit well with some parents and community leaders.

The issue is especially sensitive in King's home state of Georgia, where administrators in two rural districts  - Fannin and Gilmer counties - have canceled the school holiday.

"We have eight days that we've missed, and we're just in the 14th day of January," Fannin Superintendent Mark Henson said. "Here in the North Georgia mountains, history proves we have a lot of snow in January and February and sometimes into early March."

Both districts are considering canceling Presidents Day (February 21) and part or all of spring break as well, the administrators said.

State-mandated standardized testing weighs heavily on administrators' decision-making.

"With high-stakes testing that occurs in late April, we're trying to maximize instructional days before these high-stakes test as much as we can," said Michael Schlabra, director of administrative services for Gilmer County schools.

Tacking the days onto the end of the year would be pointless because they would come after the tests, Henson said.

"Those excuses are unacceptable," said Georgia State Conference NAACP President Edward DuBose. "To substitute the legacy of what Dr. King stood for, to reduce it to an inclement weather day, is unacceptable. ... (It) reflects the ultimate disrespect of an entire people."

DuBose is not swayed by the prospect of the districts' also canceling other holidays.

"Dr. King's day was bought for a high price," he said. "Dr. King gave his life for this country. He, by his work, changed the notion of how people view people of color."

North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools designated Monday as one of its weather make-up days when it approved the academic calendar two years ago, a statement on the district's website says.

"Teachers and principals are encouraged to discuss Dr. King and his legacy as part of their lessons on January 17 to help students understand and observe the holiday," the statement says.

The district, led by Superintendent Peter Gorman, says it is hamstrung by state law that requires schools to have 180 days of instruction and that the school year begin and end on specific dates.

The Charlotte NAACP chapter isn't buying it.

"The NAACP on behalf of the African-American and minority community is appalled and thoroughly incensed at Peter Gorman's decision to use the MLK holiday as a snow make-up day," the group said on its website. "Once again Dr. Gorman has shown total disdain and disrespect for a very significant part of this community."

The academic calendar for Nashville, Tennessee, schools allows for four bad-weather days, but this week's storm canceled five days of school. The district chose to cancel a February 21 (Presidents Day) professional development day for faculty to make up for its fifth snow day.

The Madison County, Alabama, district, where Huntsville is located, may shorten spring break and have school on Presidents Day, Superintendent Terry Davis told the Birmingham News.

In South Carolina, the Rock Hill school district will have classes not only on Monday, but also on Presidents Day (February 21), Memorial Day (May 30) and Confederate Memorial Day (May 10).

"It's not that we wanted to do any of this. I'm losing holidays, my colleagues are losing holidays just like students are losing them," Elaine Baker, spokesperson for the Rock Hill School District, told CNN affiliate WBTV.

"I was hoping we wouldn't have to use any of the designated bad weather days," she told CNN, "but God decided to make it snow in South Carolina."

The district normally would use faculty in-service days to make up for lost time, but those days were eaten up by furlough days enacted by the money-strapped district, she said.

Parents don't want spring break shortened because many have already put money down for vacations, Baker said.

"We are not intentionally defaming the memory of this American leader; that is not so. We are just encountering what I call a perfect storm," she said.

"... We of course respect Martin Luther King, as well as men and women who are going to feel badly about Memorial Day and Presidents Day."

The Rev. Herb Crump, former president of the Rock Hill Chapter of the NAACP, disagreed with the protests of the chapter's current leadership. He said King would have wanted children to be in school on Monday.

"I think that our children would be doing a disservice, and it would be a slap in the face to the life of Dr. King by sitting at home playing video games," Crump told WBTV.

soundoff (483 Responses)
  1. ming

    Ofcourse it's a debate! Ever since that terrorist took over the whitehouse everything is a debate. Meanwhile there has been no Change! I guess the new chant will be "thought we could, thought we could..."

    January 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Noah

    They are doing the right thing here. This is not an attack on Martin Luther King or blacks and anyone who thinks it is is just stupid. Just because something has to do with a black person does not make it racist. Yes, it stinks we have to cancel the kids day off... a day they can all play together out in the snow... kind of what Mr. King's dream was... but other holidays and breaks are being effected to so our kids can keep up. If this really matters to you, take 20 minutes tonight and sit down and talk with your kids. When I was a kid, it was just a day off from school. It is only now as an adult that I understand what Martin Luther King day is all about.

    Grow up people, those of you trading insults over this look like fools.

    January 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CoExIsTeNcE

    I believe that Dr. King would have no qualms with the use of this day for school. He fought for better education for the black community and desegregation of the existing education system. Ask yourself this, do you think MLK would agree with such controversy causing racial tension over that fact that children HAD to go to school. Also everyone here should read I'M BLACK, YOUR WHITE, WHOSE INNOCENT BY SHELBY STEELE before commenting.

    January 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Reverend Gilliam

    Hello People,

    Just wanted to say that America is full of Open Minded People. Don't worry about a few small minded people living in a hate filled bubble. Get your big pins out and pop goes the WEASEL. If you want to contact me give me a call anytime @ 410/357/1187. Sincerely, Reverend Gilliam (ReverendGilliam@aol.com)

    God Bless America

    January 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Harry

    It's got to be about race right? If the school district in question said they'd make up the snow days on President's Day or Memorial Day, would the NAACP be outraged? Of course not, read the Georgia NAACP's President's quote ("Dr. King's day was bought for a high price," etc.). So when my kids' school does not observe the federal holiday Veteran's Day (the don't – Columbus Day either – and haven't for several years...because they observe Rosh Hashonah in a town with a very small Jewish population), should I be protesting because of the school's insensitivity to what I an other veteran's have paid for at a high price? Get over yourself!

    January 17, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Heather from Fannin County.

    This has NOTHING to do with race people. Why is that so hard to comprehend? I live in Fannin County and I can assure all of you that we have white, black, Hispanic, and Asian children in our county schools. We have now missed 10 days of this school year due to bad weather! I don't care who you are, NOTHING is more important that than the safety, well being, and education of our CHILDREN! Please go elsewhere to wage your petty wars! Leave our children alone! By the way...Fannin kids were NOT in school today! Our roads are still not safe for busses!! You people are fighting about NOTHING!

    January 18, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. Keisha

    None of the kids at my kids school went to school yesyerday.

    January 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    My kids stayed home yesterday.

    January 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
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