State government shutting down on 1st mandated Confederate holiday
Compliance may be issue next year if schools don't close
Wednesday, May 9, 2001
BY SCHUYLER KROPF
Of The Post and Courier staff
State government will come to a halt Thursday
when South Carolina celebrates its first Confederate Memorial Day as a
mandatory state holiday.
More than 68,500 state workers will have the
The holiday became law last year when Gov. Jim
Hodges signed it as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday bill.
Only one Charleston-area school district -
Berkeley County - will observe the holiday by closing classes for the
day. Most other local school districts set their calendars at least a
year in advance and say they couldn't adjust in time to give students
and teachers the day off this year.
That apparently is OK with one of the bill's
supporters, Sen. Glenn F. McConnell, R-Charleston, although he said if
it is not embraced next year, there might be a movement in the
Legislature to force it into place with an emphasis on teaching
"If Confederate Memorial Day is not going
to be celebrated the way they would celebrate Martin Luther King's
birthday, that's going to create some acrimony between people,"
Charleston County sets its calendar three years
in advance, and the holiday is not on the schedule for 2002 or 2003, but
that could change. Charleston School Board Chairman Liz Alston said the
decision will come down to careful research by the district's
administration and school leaders.
But the idea of mandating the holiday struck a
nerve with Alston. The state mandates 180 days of instruction, greater
accountability and multiple holidays. "Where is the balance?"
"Holidays are something that people really
love, but everyone wants the schools to do everything," she said.
"We really need to take a critical look at all we are mandating the
schools to do. Everyone is filling up the plates of the students."
The holiday has been added to the 2001-02
calendars in both Dorchester County's school districts 2 and 4.
What is still unclear is whether the day will
be treated the same as Memorial Day, Veteran's Day or Martin Luther King
Day. Berkeley school officials said no history lessons or other
observances were planned this week in classrooms. Leaders in both
Dorchester school districts said they do not have solid plans yet to
alter the curriculum next year.
But Dorchester 4's Superintendent Mary
Rice-Crenshaw said the holiday will be explained in the classroom.
"Our children will get the benefit of understanding why the day is
being celebrated and why it is important," she said.
Bill sponsor Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston,
said he'd like to see the holiday and the Martin Luther King holiday
embraced by both black and white South Carolinians.
"To get along, you have to respect each
other's history," Ford said.
Hodges, who signed the bill last year as part
of his support for the King holiday, doesn't plan to issue any statement
recognizing the memorial observance. He is scheduled to be in Washington
talking with the state's congressional delegation and the National
Governors Association, said spokesman Morton Brilliant.
In Columbia, the House plans to meet and
conduct business Thursday, but the Senate, under McConnell's leadership,
will take the day off.
No federal offices are affected by the holiday,
which will be marked in Charleston at Magnolia Cemetery in a ceremony
held by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Charleston Chapter No.
4. The event starts at 3 p.m. and will include an address by Randy
Burbage of the state Hunley Commission.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United
Daughters of the Confederacy and the Palmetto Battalion plan an
observance in Columbia on Saturday. After a 10 a.m. service at Elmwood
Cemetery, the group will march to the Statehouse for an 11:45 a.m.
Post and Courier reporter
Catherine Lawrence contributed to this story.