Reported By Forrest Sanders
Every student in Middle Tennessee has had time off this week due to the winter storm. In Montgomery County, they're out of snow days and will have to make one up on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
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Some parents believe there has to be another way.
"How dare you think that's just another day you can just take? Just like it's another day," said Clarksville resident Turner McCullough Jr.
There's a reason McCullough is so passionate about what he's saying.
"It is not another day. It is America's painful history made whole and complete by the acknowledgment that a wrong was made right," he said.
McCullough said he was one of the thousands who marched with King through Washington in 1963.
"This is a part of who I am. This is in the fiber of who I am as an individual," McCullough said.
This week, he said, it was his duty to write friends, local officials and even the governor's office protesting the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System's decision to hold a make-up day on the federal holiday.
"This was not intended as insensitive or disrespectful at all," said Elise Shelton, Clarksville school spokeswoman.
In addition to two snow days in December, students were out Monday and Tuesday. Pencils were back up and class was in session by Wednesday, but a day had to be made up, and Jan. 17 was the next day on a contingency plan made over the summer.
"The fact that it had to be Martin Luther King Day that we had to make up, that is unfortunate," Shelton said. "It could've just as easily been Presidents' Day or Good Friday. It could've been any of those days. It just so happened that this was the first one that we're making up."
School Board Chairman Jimmie Garland is also the president of the Clarksville NAACP chapter. He said every moment in the classroom is critical, and that was the school board's motivation in the decision.
"As citizens of this community, our focus should be on the education of our children, not necessarily on a day," Garland said. "Even though in the minority community, Martin Luther King Day is a special day for us, and I'm not going to say that it's not, but not even that day is sacred when it comes to the education of our children."
"This is a great holiday honoring a great person, and if the rest of the world can mark it, I really can't understand why Tennessee's top spot can't mark it," McCullough said.
Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools officials said any child absent Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day events will get an excused absence. The child will have to bring a note to his or her teacher, and the work can be made up.
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