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School on MLK Day in Bismarck Irks Parent

Many businesses and school districts across the nation closed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.
BISMARCK, AR -- Many businesses and school districts across the nation were closed Monday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But in some central Arkansas school districts, it was pretty much like any other day.
   
That left some wondering whether enough was being done to honor a civil rights icon.

For a mother and her daughters, it was the morning news on TV that sparked a conversation.

"They were having a Martin Luther King parade and they asked if we could go," said Jennifer Smith of Amity.  "I told them 'No' because they had to go to school."

Smith's kids attend Bismarck Elementary. Unlike banks, federal courthouses, the state capitol and many other schools, theirs does not take off for the federal holiday. The family wonders why.

"People here are still, I think, a little bit old school," Smith said.

"It's really just a calendar decision," said Bismarck School District Superintendent Susan Stuart. "There's no particular reason that we don't close on this holiday." 

She says every year teachers take a vote on which holidays they'd like off, and MLK day isn't one of them.

"We also don't take Presidents' Day off, but that doesn't mean we don't honor the presidents," she said.

Stuart says teachers do use the holiday to teach about Dr. King, and when we visited a classroom Monday afternoon, students were analyzing a poem about him.

"We do feel that it is very important," she said.

Still, Smith wonders if the vestiges of the old south live on in Bismarck through the refusal to honor Dr. King with a day off.

Despite Monday's lesson, Smith isn't sure her kids are being taught as much the civil rights leader as they should.

"They've never given me any inkling they know who or what Martin Luther King Day is about," Smith said.

This isn't the first time school on MLK day has been an issue in central Arkansas. 

Last year, a 10th grader in the Mt. Ida School District stayed home in protest when his school held classes on the holiday.
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