Guess what school district's not going to observe the birthday of America's most famous civil rights leader—because they need to make up a snow day.
A winter storm closed schools in the Charlotte, North Carolina area for three days earlier this week, and unfortunately, now the district's children have to make up the missed classroom time. That sounds innocent enough, right? Except that the school district says one of those snow days has to be made up next Monday, January 17— which just happens to be the nation's youngest federal holiday, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
You read that correctly. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools aren't going to observe the birthday of America's most famous civil rights leader because they need to make up a snow day.
Spokeswoman LaTarzja Henry claims the district wants to observe the holiday, but since North Carolina law requires 180 days of school, and parents don't want to have to make it up during spring break, the district has no choice. Henry also says that two years ago the use of the King holiday as a bad weather makeup day was approved unanimously by the school board.
However, according to the Charlotte NAACP, members of the community met with the district in the spring of 2010 and asked them to choose a day other than the MLK holiday as a possible makeup day. And, in a statement on their website, the civil rights organization said the district's decision to hold school on the holiday "continues to demonstrate a blatant, deliberate disconnect" with the area's black community given that
Martin Luther King is the only African American in the history of this country being granted a national holiday in his honor because of the horrible and cruel sacrifices African Americans have made in the building of this democracy and in-lieu of the extraordinary personal and humanitarian sacrifices made by Dr. King and others.\n
The NAACP's local president, Kojo Nantambu, also questioned why a student-free teacher work day scheduled for Friday, January 21 can't be used as the makeup day instead. A statement on the district's website makes a bureaucratic excuse, claiming, "Any changes to the calendar must be approved by the Board of Education."
In the meantime, angry parents are busy logging complaints with the district's superintendent, Dr. Peter Gorman. Santrie' Walls told the Charlotte Observer that when she first heard about the district's decision to hold school on the holiday she thought it was a joke. Now that she knows they're serious, she's outraged.
"This special day may not be important to some, but to the majority it's very symbolic," she said. "If you choose to keep Dr. M. L. King Day as the makeup, I, along with many others, will NOT be sending my child to school."
The decision to hold the makeup day on King Day most likely lies with North Carolina's long legacy of disdain for the holiday. In 1983 the bill to create the national holiday had been passed by the House and was up for Senate consideration, but North Carolina's Republican Senator, the undeniably racist Jesse Helms, decided to lead the opposition to it. Helms charged that King espoused "action-oriented Marxism" and other "radical political views" and questioned whether King was important enough to deserve such an honor.
It's clear that in the Charlotte Mecklenberg School District, King is still not important enough to honor. Perhaps the school district wants a Jesse Helms holiday instead?