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. Shamontay

    Add my kids to the list. We live in ATL and our kids are gonna stay home. By the way, whoever started sending out the email about staying home on Monday Good Job! Everybody I know in OUR area got it.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. scranton

    I am pretty sure Dr. King would rather have children in school that day than watching television or playing video games. George Washington and Abe Lincoln are celebrated on Presidents day and the kids go to school then so what's up with the NAACP. What they should be doing is patrolling down town Detroit where blacks are being killed every day in violence.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. frank

    Let the kids go later in the summer, they are bored anyway in the summer.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cornholio

    when I was in elementary school in the 50's, we used Lincoln's birthday and Confederate Memorial Day to make up days. Nobody got offended. Get over it.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cornholio

    this must be a slow news day.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whitechick

    Kuddoz to all the blacks who are keeping their kids home! Now we know why your all so un educated! !! Keep up the good work you racist low lives

    January 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. highlandergirl

    I do not understand the anger and contempt behind a lot of the comments here. How is making the decision to keep your children home from school "sticking it to white people"? Your children have federal mandated testing coming up in April they need to prepare for; there are also state laws on how many days children must attend school per year, therefore the days missed because of inclement weather must be made up. School officials are not trying to disrespect anyone; race has nothing to do with the decisions they're making. And I agree that Dr. King would find all this fuss distasteful and unnecessary. He wanted all children to have a chance at an equal education and keeping your children home in honor of Dr. King does not seem like the best way to honor him. This has nothing to do with white people trying to "keep the black man down" and everything to do with giving ALL children the best education possible. We have enough issues within this country; we don't need any further drama amongst us as Americans because some people need the argument and drama in their life to exist. In the words of Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – send your children to school to learn about him and equality in education freedoms he worked so hard to achieve for them.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frenchy

      I'm confused about the whole "sticking it to white people" part about staying home from school on MLK Day too– if anything, it puts the white's further ahead in education.
      But I can justify the anger–from what I understand is that most southern states in the USA don't accept MLK as a hero, and not all states have this holiday; the Civil War was just yesterday to many white folks living down there.

      January 16, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mare0568

    I'm sorry, but the truth is, MLK day isn't even acknowledged up here in the mountains in Pennsylvania. The school's never close for it. And, if they do - like this year - it is for teacher's inservice days. National Holiday? For whom? The postal service, banks, and government workers?

    January 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Adam

    I'd prefer children in school learning about the person an annual day is dedicated to. I didn't give a damn about holidays growing up, unless I got gifts or got out of school.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jesmeisterkuhn

    Of course you'd complain about people saying its a race thing. Its an American issue.but when u have groups with such recent history as African Americans there is a certain amount resistance to signs of inequality and further marginilization. The reality is "Race Does Matter" in this country!

    January 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Nino Brown

    My kids are staying home Monday for the MLK Holliday. On another subject I cant believe the Falcons just lost to the Packers! Thats ok Atlanta will be in the Super Bowl next year! I guarantee it!

    January 16, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Bryan

    I think having kids in school to learn is more important these days. Holidays are great but when this generation grows up not knowing who MLK is or what he stood for besides racial equality, that will reiterate my point. I learned diddly squat about MLK due to school/holiday. I had to do a college paper in modern humanity to really learn about MLK. Show the kids a movie about him, create a lesson plan centered around him for Monday, and disregard the NAACP. Our president is half black. I think racial equality is real. A few bad stones exist but they are in every race/culture. The NAACP is a bunch of moronic people who feel they should be given everything, no if's, ands, or buts. Hard work, education, and persistence gets you ahead not holidays.

    January 16, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. SharkMan2

    Education was one of the most important things to Dr. King so to argue that his legacy is being disrespected by "canceling" his holiday so that these kids can make up snow days is asinine.

    January 16, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. tibby

    I believe that kids should go to school on Martin Luther king day
    It's not that I don't care about it but honestly what will your kids do on that day!
    Play videogames, watch t.v maybe work on some homework
    No one realty celebrates this day to me knowledge, which is sad
    So instead of you kids rotting their brains at home, send them to school
    But if you will actually DO something on that day, to celebrate this great man, by all means keep your kids home,and celebrate!!

    January 16, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. An Educator

    If it is really about education and the upcoming testing; lets just cancel spring break.

    January 16, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
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