The action has drawn its supporters, who say that women must find ways to show their political and economic power at a time when they fear the Trump administration will hurt issues that matter to them. There are critics with different concerns, including Patricia Gordon, a teacher at T.C. Williams High School in the Alexandria city public schools district in Virginia, where classes were canceled Wednesday because of the protest. The district website explains why it took this action in a note on its website that says in part:
It has come to our attention that as of March 6, 2017, more than 300 staff members have requested leave this Wednesday, March 8. Given the unusually high number of requests, this may be attributed to the observance of International Women’s Day. This day has also been deemed A Day Without Women. Consequently, ACPS has decided to close schools for students for the day. This day will be a teacher work day for ACPS staff. This is in addition to the teacher work day that is on Friday, March 10.This is not a decision that was made lightly. We have been closely monitoring requests for leave on March 8, including communicating with school leaders and our education association. The decision is based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high-staff-absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction. It is not based on a political stance or position.Students will not be required to make up this instructional day. … We understand that when schools close there is an impact on families, [that] may have to find unanticipated child care. We apologize for this unforeseen burden on parents and thank you for your patience and understanding.
Gordon isn’t happy with the protest, and in this post, she explains why. It first appeared on the Facebook page of Patrick Welsh, a legendary teacher at T.C. Williams who retired after teaching English there for 43 years and who gave me permission to publish this.
By Patricia Gordon
My school system has canceled classes this Wednesday because 300+ employees applied for leave. Apparently some staff and faculty believe that this is a fitting way to observe “A Day Without a Woman.” Our district leadership says we would not be able to find coverage for that many personnel, so they canceled class systemwide. This means that approximately 15,000 students and about 1,100 teachers who did not put in for leave and want to work are held hostage by those who want to “raise awareness” or “protest” (About what exactly? I could guess, but as this type of “activism” so often is … it’s amorphous and undefined.)
As a teacher and a woman, I don’t like this one bit. My first allegiance is to my students. I work for them, not Donald Trump or whomever this protest is supposed to sting. (Spell that out for me, please, if you know.) Missing a day of school negatively impacts kids. Period.
Multiple choice question for you: This stunt is especially painful for kids who (A) are in high school and will not graduate if they don’t pass the state tests in a few weeks, (B) have parents who work for wages with no cache of leave to pull from when they have to stay home and watch their kids Wednesday, (C) depend on school for two meals a day or care at our clinic or, hey, an education! (D) are safer at school than home alone, in the street or wherever else an unsupervised kid might go, or E) all of the above.
Answer: E, which is just one letter away from the “F” grade I am giving this … whatever this is. Why? 1. An effective protest has a specific audience and goal in mind. How else can you know if you reached it? As I mentioned earlier, this action lacks both. 2. A respectable protester has some skin in the game and it’s his or her own! On Wednesday, whose graduation is imperiled? Who gets docked a day’s pay? Who goes hungry? Who could be in physical danger? Not the striking adults! Go look at the lettered answer choices above.
It’s the KIDS who stand to lose on all those fronts.
Don’t get me wrong; I support anyone’s right to speak up or protest when they have a grievance, but sloppy dissent like this should be a last resort after all reasonable options have been exhausted. They haven’t.
Make your voice heard but do it in a targeted and fair way. How about a massive showing at a school board or city council meeting? A sit-in on the Capitol steps? (Extra credit if you chain yourself to something or get arrested.) Picket. Nail your list of grievances to the schoolhouse door. Just don’t throw your colleagues and students under the bus, please.