Baltimore area school officials aren't making exceptions for students and staff members planning to miss school to attend tomorrow's Million Man March in Washington.
In Baltimore, as well as Baltimore, Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, students who take the day off to go to the march must provide school officials with a note from their parents. The day will be considered an excused absence.
"If students go, and we're not encouraging that and we're not encouraging field trips, they have to have a note from their parents. It's just a regular excused absence," said Nat Harrington, a spokesman for Baltimore City schools. "No special arrangements are made for anybody."
Staff people who attend the march must take the day off as either vacation or a personal or compensation day, Mr. Harrington said.
In Baltimore County, where controversy brewed last week after a Nation of Islam member was allowed to speak to Winfield Elementary School students about the march, schools spokesman Donald Mohler said no special considerations are being given there, either.
Mr. Mohler said students who have a note from their parents will be marked as an excused absence, and staff members may use a personal leave day to attend the march.
People Against Hate, a Baltimore City-based group with 100 members, sent a letter to the Baltimore County school system complaining about the Nation of Islam member's appearance at the school. The letter points to the Nation's "long history of anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic and anti-white rhetoric" under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Mr. Mohler said it was made clear that the speaker would only discuss the march in the context of a current events activity.
"The principal was fully prepared to stop the lecture if [the lecturer] began talking about the Nation of Islam and its religious ideas," Mr. Mohler said.
School administrators in Anne Arundel County told students who wish to attend the march that they had until Friday to give their teachers a note signed by their parents asking to be excused for the day, said David D. Lombardo, director of human resources.
Mr. Lombardo said he is not expecting any problems with buses and student transportation.
"We are not taking any position on this march pro or con," he said.
In Howard County, the excused absence policy drew some criticism from Columbia resident Phyllis Rydell, a mother of two children in the school system. Ms. Rydell spoke against the policy at Thursday's school board meeting.
The announcement that students and staff could be excused for the event "was an implied endorsement of the march," said Ms. Rydell, who was concerned about what she perceived as racial comments made in the past by Mr. Farrakhan.
But Patti Caplan, a school spokeswoman, said the announcement about excused absences was not an endorsement of the march. She said the school system follows )) the same policy for daughters who take the day off to spend with their mothers on the national day set aside for that purpose.
Nine MARC trains on the Penn Line will be added as express service from Baltimore to Washington for the Million Man March tomorrow, the Mass Transit Administration announced.
Round-trip, nonrefundable tickets are on sale only at Pennsylvania Station here through tomorrow at $6.75 a person. Buyers will be assigned to a morning and an evening train. Advance purchase is suggested.
Trains will leave the station at 3 a.m., 4:15 a.m., 7 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. for the 45-minute ride to Union Station in Washington. Trains will leave Union Station for Baltimore at 4:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8:05 p.m., 9:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. No stops will be made between Pennsylvania and Union stations. Information: (800) 325-RAIL.