Iowa NAACP group decries school on King holiday

DES MOINES – An NAACP youth group plans to protest a decision by the Des Moines school district to hold classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make up a snow day.

The youth council for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People intended to submit a letter of protest to the Des Moines school board Tuesday night, the Des Moines Register reported.

The district is using Jan. 21 as a makeup day for one of two school days that were canceled because of a late December storm. The second snow day will be made up on Presidents Day in February.

“Dr. Martin Luther King affects all of our lives daily,” said Avery Jackson, president of the youth council. “To belittle his success by allowing us to go to school and learn about something besides his legacy is something we can’t fathom because it’s so unbelievable.”

Jackson, a senior at Hoover High School, also wants student representation on the school district’s calendar committee. The group sets the school calendar for the next year.

Jackson said snow days should be made up at the end of the school year.

“We want change to be made. We want to make sure the school board and students of this district understand the importance of this day and the importance of this man,” he told the newspaper. “Maybe they should reach out to students and ask us what we really feel.”

The council has collected more than 300 signatures for a petition against the decision.

Interim superintendent Tom Ahart said in a statement that the district approved using the holidays as weather makeup days so the school year can conclude by the end of May.

Ahart said students will spend time on the holiday at school learning about King and his civil rights work. He also said students will plan community service projects in his honor. He said there’s a unique opportunity for the district to observe the day.

“After all, as everyone who cares about MLK Day knows, it is not designated as a day off. It is designated as a day of service,” the statement said.