NAACP Press Statement
October 09, 2017
Florida State Conference NAACP Responds to Collier County School Board’s Decision to Not Observe Martin Luther King Day.
What have we come to when those the Collier County School Board apparently listened to in reaching its decision preferred to maintain the district’s long winter break rather than sacrifice one day of that long winter break to maintain MLK’s birthday as a school holiday in 2018? An observer from another country, or another galaxy (for Star Wars fans), might find it a puzzling and untimely choice given the challenging state of race relations in this country at this moment.
Indeed, in signing H.R. 3706, Public Law 98-144, the bill making the birthday of MLK a national holiday, President Ronald Reagan noted that Dr. King had awakened something strong and true, a sense that true justice must be colorblind, and that among white and black Americans, as he put it, “Their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom; we cannot walk alone.” But President Reagan also recognized that traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, our nation has decided to honor Dr. King by setting aside a day each year to remember him and the just cause he stood for. Let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day, “Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The danger in the school board’s action is that Collier County Public Schools, along with other school districts who opt not to recognize MLK’s birthday as a holiday, sets a harmful precedent not only internally but for others as well. After a while, and before we even know it, the exceptions swallow up the rule, and the principle is lost in a sea of pragmatic, comfortable excuses.
For questions, please contact Adora Obi Nweze at 305 915 4701.
Adora Obi Nweze
To make up for the school closures during Hurricane Irma, the Collier County Public School Board has unfortunately decided to not honor the national holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year. Instead of respecting the holiday originally instituted by President Ronald Reagan, and giving our public school students a day off to learn about America’s greatest civil rights leader and to celebrate and reflect on his teachings, the Board has selected it as a school make-up day.
We feel that this decision is both unwise and unnecessary. Unnecessary, because Lee, Broward, and Monroe Counties have all managed to spare MLK Jr. Day in their revised scheduling.* Collier County is surely able to do so.
Unwise, because this decision is causing deep disappointment in our community. Unwise, because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., won worldwide respect alongside other non-violent human rights giants such as Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela for seeking peaceful solutions to his country’s problems. Rightly honored for his commitment to the effectiveness and humanity of non-violent resistance, he led by example, putting his own life (and those of his followers) on the line in the face of violence and racism in Selma and elsewhere. Later, in Washington, DC, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to hear his famous “I have a Dream” speech in front of the reflecting pool in the National Mall, where he called for non-violence and laid out his a vision for a utopian, post-racist America inspired by service: service to children, service to community, service to people of all colors, inspired by the Biblical injunction to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. Several years later, he would speak out strongly against both the war in Vietnam, and against what he saw as the epidemic of poverty in communities of all colors across our nation.
Dr. King’s vision – his call for jobs, for universal healthcare, and for a stop to endless military intervention – is, sadly, as relevant as ever. And, in the wake of Charlottesville and rising ethnic and racial intolerance, his legacy of non-violent resistance is as every bit as crucial now as it was in 1963. Now is not the time to stop honoring Dr. King’s legacy.
Naples has a proud tradition of holding day-long learning events, parades and celebrations to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In support of the appeal by the Collier County NAACP, the undersigned respectfully petitions the School Board to maintain MLK Jr. Day as a school-wide holiday by selecting another workable solution to make up lost school time. One option that the Board might wish to consider is to reschedule January 2nd as a teacher planning day and have the students return on January 3rd.
Lee County: October 16 – Professional Duty Day becomes a regular school day. December 19-21 – Early Dismissal Days become regular school days. December 22 – Professional Duty Day becomes an Early Dismissal Day. January 8 – Hurricane Makeup Day becomes a regular school day. March 16 – Professional Duty Day becomes a regular school day. April 2 – Easter Monday becomes a regular school day. Source
Broward County: On October 3, 2017, The School Board of Broward County unanimously approved utilizing two previously scheduled early release days – October 19, 2017, and December 22, 2017 – as makeup days for Hurricane Irma. There are no changes to winter break, spring break or the last day of school. Source
Monroe County: All Early Release Dates for Professional Development (dates vary by region) become Full Student Days. October 16 – Teacher Planning Day becomes Full Student Day. November 10 – Veterans Day (observed) becomes Full Student Day. January 8 – Teacher Planning Day becomes Full Student Day. February 19 – Presidents Day becomes a Full Student Day. March 9 – End of Third Quarter Teacher Planning Day becomes half-day for students. March 30 – District-Wide Early Release Day becomes Full Student Day.
To sign the petition please click HERE