A Rock Hill lawmaker wants to bar schools from holding classes on two holidays - Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Confederate Memorial Day.
State Rep. John King said Wednesday he's drafting a bill that would prevent South Carolina school districts from using either state holiday as a makeup day when schools close for bad weather. He plans to introduce the bill in the Legislature this week.
The move is in response to Rock Hill school officials' decision to hold classes on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to make up for one of this week's snow days.
"I am hurt that they would choose MLK Day," said King, a Democrat. "I would love to see them change course. Many, many people have fought to make this a recognized holiday."
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Fort Mill schools also will be open Monday for a half-day.
Schools in Clover and York, and Chester and Lancaster counties will be closed.
The decision to hold classes on the holiday has sparked a backlash across the region.
The NAACP's Rock Hill chapter has contacted both districts' leaders asking them to reconsider. Charlotte-based THUG (True Healing Under God) Civil Rights Initiative is planning two demonstrations - one Friday morning in front of Fort Mill schools district office and one Sunday in York to protest Rock Hill schools' decision.
Fort Mill school board member Chantay Bouler, who cast the lone vote last winter against designating MLK Day a weather makeup day, criticized the decision.
It shouldn't be a makeup day, she said.
"When students and staff are at school or at work," Bouler said, "that lessens the opportunity to participate in activities in the community that speak directly to (Martin Luther King Jr.'s) memory and legacy.
"It gave me heartburn then; it gives me heartburn now."
A Charlotte City Council member harshly criticized Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' decision to open schools Monday. And the city's NAACP chapter called for local clergy to urge church members to keep their children out of school that day.
Fort Mill schools Superintendent Chuck Epps and Rock Hill schools Superintendent Lynn Moody said it's up to school boards whether to change attendance calendars approved last winter.
School board leaders from both districts said they don't plan to call a special meeting to vote on the issue.
King said his bill is intended to prevent such turmoil in the future. He included May 10's Confederate Memorial Day, he said, because "both holidays have different meanings to different people and I serve all people."
"I don't want to just single out one holiday."
Two other local lawmakers don't support King's idea.
"If it comes up, I will vote against it," Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, said. "It has nothing to do with those two days. It has to do with more mandates coming from the state level.
"This flies in the face of the flexibility we've been creating in the state."
State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, said such decisions should be made by school boards.
"They're elected politicians just like the Legislature," Hayes said. "If constituents are up in arms, they can go to their local school boards and complain."
Moody said she has received a flood of feedback since announcing schools would be open on the holiday.
"Lots of e-mails on every side," she said, including petitions from the website Change.org, a clearinghouse for social causes.
"Some say stay your course," Moody said. "I've even had people e-mail me saying, 'Why don't we go to school on Monday?'
"I'm like, 'We are.'"