published Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Schools draw fire for classes on King holiday

by Andy Johns


The Unity Group's 41st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Week Celebration includes the following events:

• 4 p.m. Sunday: Dr. King's birthday party at New Zion Baptist Church, 809 M.L. King Blvd. Ronald Harris, of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, will be the speaker.

• 4:30 p.m. Monday: Memorial march to Tivoli Theatre. Line up at Olivet Baptist Church, 740 M.L. King Blvd.

• 5 p.m. Monday: Main MLK Day program at the Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St. Larry Earvin, president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, is the speaker.

Gilmer and Fannin County Schools in North Georgia will use Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a make-up day for snow, but that decision has drawn heat from NAACP leaders.

School officials say they need every day they can get to make up for snow days.

Gilmer County Superintendent Bryan Dorsey said he "certainly understands the criticism" but added that officials are "running out of choices."

"It's tough when people don't realize that since Dec. 2 we've only had kids in school two whole days and two half days," Dorsey said. "Since Dec. 10 we've almost had a small summer break already."

Both systems have missed nine days so far -- four before Christmas and all this week. Fannin County made up one day on Jan. 4.

Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia State NAACP Chapter, said he is shocked that the school systems would "rise to this level of disrespect" to King.

"The whole state of Georgia should be embarrassed, actually, by the action of both counties," he said in a phone interview Friday.

School officials in Habersham County, Ga.; Johnson City, Tenn.; and Charlotte, N.C., have also been criticized for using the holiday to make up lost days.

Friday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton urged parents to keep their children home Monday if local systems hold classes, The Associated Press reported.

Mark Henson, schools superintendent in Fannin County, said the system also used Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day as emergency days last year.

Besides those days, he said the system could use two more days in February and three in March. It's important to get the days in before the all-important state standardized tests are given in early April.

"We have to get days between now and the CRCT," Henson explained.

DuBose said he hoped school officials would reconsider.

"You can't help but to come to the conclusion that the population of his county is having some bearing on the leadership," DuBose said.

The 2009-10 state report card lists Gilmer County schools as 80 percent white and less than 1 percent black. Fannin County schools are 93 percent white and less than 1 percent black.

"Some people have characterized it as not honoring Martin Luther King," Dorsey said. "We certainly don't intend it to be that way, no more than we intended not to honor our presidents on the presidents' holiday that we had to take back."

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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XMarine said...

Please keep the kids going to school in these counties.Just visit the area & observe the folks living there & you'll agree that they need all the education they can get.MLK was an educator & he would agree with this decision.

January 15, 2011 at 6:42 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Why not just forgo a Spring Break? Or extend classes into Summer, and petition the state to delay these so-called sacred tests?, or cancel ALL holidays between now and school's end? Why not have Saturday classes? I agree holidays and Saturday shouldn't be sacrosanct but don't just pick on one of them.

January 15, 2011 at 8:16 a.m.
mella_yella said...

Wonder the reaction if Easter week would have been used to make up for snow days? Can anyone imagine the outrage over that? There would be another Christian Cusade taking place.

Some people were angry from the very beginning about creating a holiday for Dr. King. This is their way of paying back. Some jobs took away personal holiday to create friction. I remember overhearing one employee say, ""F" Dr. King! He never did anything for me anyway!!"

January 15, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.

Martin Luther King day is a racist holiday that should not be a holiday in the first place. If anything Martin Luther King Jr. served to weaken the United States that once existed. I trace the current state of the country and its downfall directly to him and the racism and division that he represented and preached.

January 15, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

"Martin Luther King day is a racist holiday that should not be a holiday in the first place. If anything Martin Luther King Jr. served to weaken the United States that once existed. I trace the current state of the country and its downfall directly to him and the racism and division that he represented and preached."

So, are you saying we were a better country under Jim Crow, when blacks "knew their place", and lived in fear because the constitution (in practice) did not really protect them? You must be joking.

January 15, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
IkeConn said...

I'm kind of getting a kick out of this upsetting all the right people. I was a child in Atlanta in the 1960's and remember sitting in the front yard of the old Villa Rica State Patrol station with my siblings and cousins wearing State Patrol riot helmets my uncle gave us as the civil rights march passed through from Birmingham to Atlanta. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Atlanta changed virtually overnight and so did our country. Even LBJ knew they had just destroyed the Democratic Party forever. Then they started paying mothers of a certain socio-economic class to pump out babies and never marry. Yea, MLK sure did a lot for this country. You don't like schools holding classes on Monday? Well cry me a bucket.

January 15, 2011 at 4:36 p.m.
mella_yella said...

IkeConn if you're speaking of welfare, that existed long before Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Under another name it was the Relief. It wasn't Martin Luther King or even welfare that encouraged poor women to make more babies without marrying in order to receive public assistance. It was the then Republican Party who stated they were willing support the women and single motherhood as long as there was no man in the house. Get your facts straight.

concernedcitizen65 so you're saying America was a better place when it had its own brand of terrorists? Who would blow up a family's home to run them from the neighborhood. Murder the men and rape the women? The only thing not harmed was the family pet because the then terrorists had more respect for a four legged animal than his fellow man?

Is this that BETTER America you're referrin to:

cmp: without sanctuary organization

January 15, 2011 at 6:22 p.m.
spider5 said...

To XMarine: perhaps you are the one who needs to be in school; it sounds like you think it is perfectly acceptable to judge not just an entire town but an entire region from a handful of people. I for one was born and raised in Gilmer County and I graduated with a perfect 4.0 and have the same college average. Would you care to share your GPA with us?

To the NAACP...I think it is a great idea for parents to keep their kids out of school on MLK day so that they can honor King by playing video games, watching cartoons, sleeping in and eating junk food. Sounds like a great plan to me! Seriously!?! He has his own federal memorial day which is more than a lot of great men can say (News flash, he was a great man but he didn't build our great nation all by himself!). If school children took a day off for every great man or woman who helped to make America the country that it is they would be in school maybe zero days a year...if that. And I am sure King would be very pleased with that!

January 15, 2011 at 7:24 p.m.
hambone said...

What is the racial makeup of Fannin and Gilmer counties?

How many black students are there?

January 15, 2011 at 9:56 p.m.
northchatt73 said...

I work every single year on Veterans Day and it is shameful that the state of Georgia does not recognize it. I understand why people are mad about school being conducted on MLK day, but many kids would learn more about MLK at school rather than sleeping in.

January 15, 2011 at 10:42 p.m.

northchatt73, many kids would learn more about the birth of Jesus Christ rather than having a two week vacation the month of December. I see no one is ready to go on a Christian Crusade to make that happen.

January 16, 2011 at 10:30 a.m.
momswann said...

Why are we out on these holidays? Are our children learning about civil rights, the men who founded our country (President's day), labor regulations, veterans, or whatever we are supposedly are memorializing on Memorial day by being out of school? No. Teachers appreciate being off, but few parents are actually taking their children to a march or memorial on Monday. How about fewer "holidays" and a later start to the school year? Teachers could get their holidays and there would not be a lag in the education of our children.

January 16, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.
peace_pup said...

Students have never been off on these holidays. Yes, it is very important but still why should people freak if they used it as a make up day? Students needed that school day.

January 19, 2011 at 4:50 p.m.
SallyAnnJones said...

@XMarine: I am a student of Fannin County High School. I find it appalling for you to say that we need education in our area. I will have you know that we have several Advanced Placement courses and honors classes. I, for one, have every class in either honors or AP. We had 11 out of 13 students that took AP Calculus get college credit for passing. We had a 98% PASS rate on the Georgia High School Graduation Test and made AYP this year. Last year, our graduation rate was over 90%. How do your percentiles add up in your area, sir? We may be from the country, but we are not stupid. You, on the other hand, I find completely ignorant.

Also, I can assure everyone that nothing racist was involved with scheduling these days. We will not have enough instructional time to get anything ready for testing at the end of the year. Every break from now to May has been taken from us. If more snow comes, Spring Break will be taken, and then we will extend school days. Nevertheless, we did NOT go to school on Monday anyways because icy road conditions still existed from the winter storm we had last week.

I completely respect Dr. King and all the work he did, but I do not believe we should be out for an entire day of school to sit at home and twiddle our thumbs in respect for him. That's a waste of time.

January 19, 2011 at 4:59 p.m.
defenestrator said...

@SallyAnnJones: for what do you believe you should take an entire day of school, or for that matter, an entire week of school in April? Do you believe spring break is a right, when you will be off for two months in the summer? By your rationale, there is no point in students being off for any holiday, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Motive matters also. Saying that you still didn't attend anyway because of the storm that occurred 8 days prior doesn't justify the initial act of putting the school day back on the schedule. With that statement, you are saying that the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King is as important as a snow-covered Tuesday.

The idea behind any holiday is to commemorate and raise awareness of the person/event being honored. Considering Fannin County's reluctance to give up parading the Rebel flag after touchdowns and the fact that the area where Fannin County is considers the third Monday of January to be the day to commemorate Robert E. Lee's birthday, it is an easy conclusion to draw that the Fannin County School System does not consider the legacy of Dr. King worth honoring, regardless of the veracity of the snow day claim.

January 19, 2011 at 5:51 p.m.
SallyAnnJones said...

@ defenestrator: I am not here to argue with anyone. I am here to defend my county and home where I grew up.

I believe that breaks are a great thing, and sometimes much needed. But if we really need to have school, then we need to go to school. Spring Break is not considered a "right" in my standard. Just like it is not a "right" to get to drive when you turn sixteen. I think your impression of me is that I am some hotheaded teenager that is mad about losing breaks, although that is very untrue.

I do not know where you have been for several years regarding the Rebel flag and Robert E. Lee's birthday. For one, the Rebel flag does not fly at football games, and hasn't for the past two years. Nevertheless, "Dixie" is still our theme song, and the marching band will forever play it. I should know, because I am the drum major of the band. However, I see the song as heritage, just like African Americans hold their heritage with folk songs and spirituals. Also, I also have never heard of the date of commemorating Lee's birthday, even having lived here my whole life. In all honesty, besides knowing he was the leader of the Confederate army, I barely know anything about him.

So in that, you did not do much recent research about our county. Your claim of a racist school system is highly invalid. I encourage you to come visit us. Come see downtown Blue Ridge or McCaysville. Come experience for yourself. Please know that we have nothing against anyone, even though our past is very shady.

January 19, 2011 at 8:58 p.m.
MorganWeigle said...

@defenestrator Us going to school doesn't mean we dont respect him. Martin Luther King Jr. is one man i truly have great respect for. And yes, I go to Fannin County High School. I understand that you don't go to school to remember him and all that he did, but in this matter, we needed the day. We kept the spring break because honestly, you need a break. Just because we were going to school, that doesn't mean we think that he is as important as snow. Actually, it doesn't have a reference. We never related him to the snow. We didn't go to school because of the snow, yes, but that had nothing to do with MLK.


@XMarine And I don't appreciate anything that was said regarding our school's closing. We do live in the country, but we are not stupid. And I find it moronic that anyone could say such a thing. We were one of 43 (out of 159) counties in Georgia that made AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). AYP is an annual measure of student participation and achievement of state-wide assessments and other academic indicators. AYP is in association with “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001. In order to achieve that, we have to go to school. And also, just because our school is less than one percent black, that gives you NO right to assume that it must be the reason we didn't go to school on MLK Day. We have gotten every last one of our breaks taken away and we didn't even go. So next time anyone, press, news, journalists, or even someone as incompetent as XMarine, has something to say, they most definitely need to get all of their facts straight first.

January 19, 2011 at 9:12 p.m.
MorganWeigle said...

and Sally's right. All we are trying to do is defend our home. You'd probably do the same thing if people did it to you. We're not here to fight.

January 19, 2011 at 9:17 p.m.
peace_pup said...

I agree with my comrades. Go do some research about things and dont go bad mouthing people.

January 19, 2011 at 9:23 p.m.
mdye said...

@XMarine I personally find your ignorance about Fannin county and its inhabitants amusing. It is also amusing that you feel that you can speak on his behalf, saying that "he would agree with this decision". How can you be so sure? An educator, like those that teach at Fannin County High School, would want the children that they teach to be as prepared as possible for the exams that are required of them. I know this, I am a graduate of Fannin. The educators and administrators within the school system have only the best at heart for their students. The students there are well prepared for their lives beyond high school. Just last year the valedictorian went on to Harvard and the salutatorian went to Stanford. Your claim that "they need all the education they can get" is obviously false. Sally Ann is correct in her statements.

January 19, 2011 at 9:51 p.m.
tsosebee said...

@Xmarine Sounds like you need to take another MLK day for reflection you seem to be missing the point, lots of hate goin on here! Shame on you. As for our so called icey, day 10 after the storm was the first day my mailman could make it down my road to deliver my mail. I'm sure you can verify that fact with the Blue Ridge Post Office. Shouldn't we be that careful with our children??

January 19, 2011 at 10:36 p.m.
mdye said...

@defenestrator I have reread Sally's post trying to understand where you derived the assumption that she said, or even implied, that the "memory of Dr. Martin Luther King is as important as a snow-covered Tuesday". You must understand that you cannot presume anything. She simply stated that they did not attend school that day. Fannin county stopped the flying of the flag, which was only a student initiative in the first place. The students were only showing school spirit for the Rebels, which is the mascot. If you find that offensive I suggest you also take a look at Ole Miss. You must also check the presumption that we all commemorate Robert E. Lee's, because it is false. I lived in Fannin for 19 years and not once did I hear anyone mention the date. You are obviously under false assumptions. I also support the work of MLK. I recently attended the celebration that was held on campus at Georgia Tech, where he was honored his accomplishments were presented for everyone. There is no doubt that he was a great man, deserving of the respect that is given to him. Also, using other breaks that students receive as a comparison for the intent of making up a snow day is ridiculous. Do you not value the time that your children have away from school? That is assuming you have children, if you do not then consider families that cherish the time their children have off. The breaks from school are not only out of respect for outstanding members of society. The breaks are not a right, but a gift. There in no need for you to go the way you went in deciphering Sally's post.

January 19, 2011 at 10:37 p.m.
jrodstanley said...

What is America all about? This land and country was built on the foundations of freedom and Martin Luther King was one of the greatest milestones of this idea. Yes I am a citizen of Fannin County and I love my county and my fellow citizens but let me tell you something NAACP, you do not need to worry about my county dishonoring one of your fellow leaders by going to school to make up for snow days. If I am not mistaken Mr. King was a mighty supporter of the equal opportunities of all of the American citizens, especially the children, and EDUCATION being the number one point of their future. You can whine and complain all you want over one little day but the truth is if someone wants to honor Mr. King they can do it any day of the week. I believe that the wonderful and strong Mr. King would find his goals and believes being trampled by a couple of his fellow "Americans" whining about a senseless little problem. Its one storm and one year. There are many other problems that this little NAACP could be worrying about so get off of our backs!

January 19, 2011 at 10:52 p.m.
Fliperdo said...

Martin Luther King is being made out to be a man of reverence by the NAACP. In this small attack, they have clearly overlooked many things. Martin Luther King himself would most certainly not have made such an issue of the matter. I'm sure many schools would have done the same if the same circumstances occured. The Fannin County School System is not racist, and MLK day is not a revered holiday that should be respected so much that it demands kids stay home and play video games.

Mothers of any child understand that school is important and many would like to schedule it some other time than spring break. Thats when vacations are scheduled and many would much rather not have to cancel their trip in exchange for going to school for a couple added days. For them to actually skip these days during break would greatly decrease the attendance of the school system and diminish our previously mentioned high academic status. Just because the school is almost all white doesnt mean they are going to make every attempt to thwart the already very succesful Civil Rights movement.

Contrary to popular beleif, Fannin County Schools are not racist. By law they are not allowed to discriminate in any way shape or form. Inserted below are the Statements of Nondiscrimination printed in every students handbook and planner.

Statements of Nondiscrimination

The Fannin County Board of Education prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities, as well as employment, on the basis of race, color, sex religion, creed, national origin, age or disability. Fannin County High School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or handicap in any educational program or employment policy. All programs are offered to all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, or handicap.

FCSS is not attempting to lash out against the Kings and the Civil Rights movement they represent in any way, because that is illegal. They are basing their cancelations on a number of factors such as the aforementioned attendance as well as many more factors I'm sure they have discussed.

In conclusion, I find the tumult raised over this issue to be completely uncalled for. The school system is doing well and wishes to continue doing so in the way that is best. Unfortunately for avid supporters of MLK day, this includes the removal of that day.

I hope I've done something to help. In case you would like to know, I'm a student at Fannin County High and find no injustice in what was done.

January 19, 2011 at 11:12 p.m.
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