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. Jeff

    I think a lot could/should be done to remind our kids what MLK and Presidents are all about. And it's not about staying home from school. (Most of us don't stay home from work on these days). Perhaps school would be a more appropriate place to honor these men then our couches or movie theaters.

    January 15, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |

    Its not that we dont care but if it was a white holiday we wouldnt make such a big deal out of it and hollar race thing. We would send our kids to school. Its ALL about race to black people. Like i said there are more black racisist than white. Thank you all for proving my point.

    January 15, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  3. gary

    What's more important a day off or your kids education? The states are required to have so many school days in a year and must make up days missed. So what's the issue? Not all schools in this country honor MLK day anyway. When the day was started it was not required for all schools to close. Kids have too many days off as it is.

    January 15, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. shabazz

    12percent of the population equals 88percent of the nation's problem

    January 15, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. duh

    they get an extra day to visit their kids in prison

    January 15, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Big Game James

    Black guy here. My kids will be in school Monday. I do not want them to miss a second of it. Because a black man or woman with an education is THEIR worst nightmare.

    January 15, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Don't educate your babies to become anyones worst nightmare. Educate them to become a part of The Dream. If we keep acting like we're doing good to pay someone back what are we really teaching them? Tell them we do good because we can and that WE never believed we were bad.

      January 15, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  7. Delaware Dad

    We each have an opinion which is why we need elected school boards to make the decisions. Yet these elections bring in less than 10% of the voters. You truly want to make a difference and/or honor Dr. King, get out and vote. Please.

    January 15, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. DarcyFan

    With NCLB, standardized testing has become the only way teachers can actually teach students. If tests scores aren't high enough, teachers could lose their jobs as a section of NCLB states that we need "highly qualified" teachers. Meaning, that in order to see how our teachers perform in the classroom, we have to see how our students perform with filling in the bubble tests. Missing school days due to weather conditions is not very good for these students to take these state mandated tests. So what has to go? Do parents drive their kids in dangerous conditions to go to school? Or do administrator's cancel a few holidays (that most of us didn't even have off when we were children)?

    January 15, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. wow

    Wow! I think its sad that there are so many people (of ALL colors) are so up in arms about this. I am black and from Minnesota, yes born and raised as was my mother and hers. I never expected to see so much bs on cnn! I would have thought cnn would delete the some of these hateful comments. White people please have compassion for ignorant people as they come in every color. Black people of atlanta please send your children to school not because they need it but because they deserve it. And keeping them home will NOT hurt the teachers. This is a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. When attendance rates fall schools close and kids get packed into overcrowded schools. The teachers move on to other jobs still as underpaid as they were before, so who really suffers?

    January 15, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. jamdre

    Mlk day is one of the most disregarded holidays in america, the fact that its the southern states that are doing this says something. We can keep pretending but there is still a lot of hate and racial inequality in america today, evidenced by this forum.

    January 15, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Really? What does it say? What it says is that the south is illprepared for winter weather. Nothing more nothing less. Do you think the school boards sat there and decided to use this holiday because it's for black people? Imagine that meeting. Now imagine it multiple times in different states. Its not a black thing. The school board picked the next holiday and canceled it plain and simple.

      January 15, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • jamdre

      @wow! You jus found the problem, its thinking like yours that this is a black holiday, its a national holiday.

      January 15, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Maybe I should use your words. This decision was not based in "hate and racial inequality". It was based on poor planning for weather. You are right that this forum is a reminder but what is it a reminder of? If presidents day gets canceled the naacp won't say a word, everyone will send their kids to school.

      January 15, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • jamdre

      Never been a fan of naacp

      January 15, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Robert Boiteau

    Maybe going to school would be a good thing since most people celebrate the birthday of a man they probably dont have a clue about

    January 15, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • RufusVonDufus

      This is true!

      January 15, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. jamdre

    I don't care which day it is, if it is a national holiday then leave it as such, its a holiday for a reason. The Saturday option works.

    January 15, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. ChessieBay

    White chick here-unless you plan on truly celebrating MLK day with your kids, send them to school. As a nation, our children (academically) rank low. What message are you really sending by keeping your children home? Your children's academic success should be the number one priority, as it was MLKs. And for Delaware Dad-"Because a black man or woman with an education is THEIR worst nightmare"- you, along with all the other ignorant comments in this thread-sound so stupid and uneducated! Shame on CNN for posting this BS!

    January 15, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Black woman here and I agree!

      January 15, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dawn Castle

    well, let me see here. would they have cancelled a thanksgiving holiday? No, probably not. Here in the Midwest, the extra snowdays are simply tacked on at the end of the year. they don't take away holidays. good grief!

    January 15, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • jamdre

      Thank you, well said.

      January 15, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • wow

      We already had tacked on days because of swine flu last year.

      January 15, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    The NAACP needs to get a clue. Snow days often mean losing Presidents' Day or day near Easter.
    Why does MLK rank above Jesus, George, or Abe?

    January 15, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
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