FOR WHAT END did the Carroll County Board of Education offend many by canceling school holidays on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day next year: So the school year could end two days earlier in June 2000?
Give the board the benefit of the doubt that racism was not at the root of its decision. The Carroll board, like many others, struggles to satisfy the state-required 180 days of instruction while giving teachers ample planning time and taking care not to let the school year drag into late June.
But Carroll school officials were naive not to realize their decision would stir divisiveness. The decade-long debate over creating a holiday to honor the slain civil rights leader was nasty. Thankfully, it is largely behind the nation.
Carroll will be the only Maryland county to hold classes on the federal observance of King's birthday. The board, apparently, wasn't wholly oblivious to possible ramifications of its decision because it also scheduled school for Presidents Day. However, canceling the joint observance of Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, as if to balance the canceling of the King holiday, only made the decision more clumsy. It was as if the board were trading a holiday for blacks with a holiday for whites, missing the fact that the three men are heroes for all.
The Carroll board said it would require lessons and programs on King, Washington and Lincoln on the two school days. Yet that already occurs preceding the holiday closings.
The signing into law of King Day 16 years ago, the first new national holiday in 35 years, was an acknowledgment that treating a day differently from other days is, in itself, a powerful tribute to the sacrifices of an individual, or in the case of Memorial Day and Labor Day, a collection of individuals. Closing school on King Day and Presidents Day would give pupils a lesson in respect.
Pub Date: 2/12/99