03/06/2017 03:53 pm ET
Schools are realizing they can’t operate without women.
By Laura Bassett , Catherine Pearson
WASHINGTON ― Dozens of schools up and down the East Coast have announced they will be closed on Wednesday as their teachers, the vast majority of whom are women, participate in the “Day Without A Woman” strike to protest President Donald Trump.
All 16 public schools in Alexandria, Virginia, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina, The New School in New York City and a preschool in Brooklyn, New York, have canceled classes for International Women’s Day on March 8, anticipating staff shortages.
The Maple Street School in Brooklyn sent a letter to parents last week explaining that the preschool supports the political statement teachers are making by staying home. The school is still offering “backup care” that day to those who need it.
At Maple Street we have taught our kids, your kids, to have a voice, to use their words kindly but firmly, to always have a plan and think about the how and the why. We practice with them how to protest, how to march for a cause, the importance of giving back to their communities, how to identify injustice and we show them how much we love and truly support their diverse lives, personalities and family by embracing their individuality rather than pretending its not there.... [In] this spirit, we as a staff will show our kids that not only do we talk the talk but we do actually practice all that we teach them.
The strike, created by the organizers of the historic Women’s March on Washington, asks women around the world to skip work, wear red and avoid spending money for a day. The purpose is not only to protest some of Trump’s offensive statements and policies regarding women, but to underscore how integral women are to the world economy.
Wednesday’s protest will also remind the public how essential women are to education: More than three-quarters of kindergarten through high school teachers in the United States are women. Entire school districts are unable to operate without them.
Alexandria City Public Schools’ website announced that more than 300 staff members requested leave for Wednesday, which “may be” attributed to observance of the strike. Though schools will be closed, many early childhood and afterschool programs will continue to meet. “This is not a decision that was made lightly,” the message reads.
Similarly, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools announced last week that the district would be canceling classes because of the high volume of teachers interested in participating “Day Without A Woman.”
“I asked our school principals and central office department heads to survey staff to find out how many absences would occur,” Jim Causby, superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City public school system, said in a statement. “The results came back, and the number was significant. In fact, it is my determination that we will not have enough staff to safely run our school district.”
The strike is also affecting higher education institutions. The New School, a university in New York, announced support for the strike after nearly 20 female faculty members wrote a letter to their colleagues urging them to cancel classes. The school granted faculty members “flexibility” in canceling classes and urged all managers to be “as receptive as possible” to any staff who participate. Leadership also effectively gave students a green light to miss class.
“We encourage faculty not to mark students absent if they have communicated their intentions ahead of time and made the necessary arrangements with you,” university provost Tim Marshall wrote in a statement.
Of course, not all female teachers are able to sit out a school day this week. But even those who can’t strike are finding their own ways to make a statement.
“I’d likely lose my job if I just didn’t show up,” said Rachel Wright of Salt Lake City. “So, I will wear red, not spend money and incorporate a lesson about Women’s History Month.”
Laura Bassett Senior Politics Reporter, The Huffington Post
Catherine Pearson Women & Parents Senior Reporter, The Huffington Post