Sunday, January 14, 2001

For first time, all Ky. schools closed for MLK day

Law mandates observance

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Monday will mark the first time all Kentucky public schools will have been closed in observance of the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

        Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, who sponsored a new law requiring schools to close, said he is happy that at long last, all Kentucky public schools are honoring Dr. King.

        “Dr. King had done so much for the nation, but if school is open, it sends a message that he must not be important,” Mr. Crenshaw said.

        In the past, most school districts had closed voluntarily, but many remained open for teacher training.

        Last year, five districts — Clinton, Jackson, Johnson, Lawrence and Magoffin — refused to close school at all. In 1993, 66 school districts stayed open.

        Slightly fewer than half the schools are using MLK Day as a paid holiday; the rest have simply closed schools and will have to make up the day, said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.

        Dr. King's birthday became a national holiday in 1983. Kentucky was one of the last states to officially observe the holiday 10 years later.

        “We've been fighting this thing for about 13 years, and it's the first time that our agency hasn't had to challenge these school districts to do the right thing,” said the Rev. Louis Coleman, a rights activist.

        Not everyone likes the new law. Henry Clay Sizemore, superintendent of Magoffin County schools, questioned the wisdom of closing school.

        “He is a significant figure, but is he more significant than George Washington?” he asked.


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