Teachers

‘Day Without a Woman’ strike shuts down schools as teachers bolt

Several schools in at least four states were closed Wednesday so teachers can participate in "A Day Without a Woman" strike in which organizers are urging female workers to stay home.

While the gender equality demonstration, which comes on the same day as International Women's Day, was organized prior to President Trump's election and inspired by women's protests in other countries, critics say it is meant to denounce his presidency and bring politics into the classroom. 

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The strike was created by the organizers of the historic Women’s March on Washington in January, which drew hundreds of thousands in protest of Trump. Among the groups supporting Wednesday's demonstration are Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org and Amnesty International, according to the Women's March website.

On Monday, school officials in Alexandria, Va., North Carolina’s Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District and New York announced they are canceling classes in anticipation of staff shortages due to the event.

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Conservative women’s groups, such as Concerned Women of America (CWA), criticized the event as misguided and unrepresentative.

“The U.S. has the highest proportion of women in senior management positions (43 percent) of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (women comprise 47 percent of the U.S. labor force); the U.S. was ranked eighth globally in gender equality by the World Economic Forum; 24 percent of working American women are in professional fields (compared to only 16 percent of working American men); 46 percent of American firms are owned or co-owned by women,” CWA said on its website.

The group also said the glass ceiling was more a perception than a reality.

“Despite rhetoric to the contrary, men and women are different. Our needs and desires differ significantly from those of men. Our priorities are not the same, and neither is the way we seek to balance our lives with our careers. The decisions that we make in regards to career and family contribute to the perception of a glass ceiling.

Officials said all schools in Prince George's County in Maryland are closed Wednesday after 1,700 teachers asked for the day off to participate in the protest. About 30 percent of the transportation staff also requested an absense.

In Virginia, Alexandria City Public Schools -- a district that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election -- announced it will close schools for the day after more than 300 staff members requested a leave.

"This is not a decision that was made lightly," Alexandria Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley said in an email Monday to parents.

"We have been closely monitoring requests for leave on March 8, including communicating with school leaders and our education association,” Crawley said. “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.”

The announcement had many parents scrambling to make child care arrangements, or, in some cases, request a leave of absence from work to stay home with their children.

The Alexandria City Public School district's Facebook page has become a forum for parents to share their opinions over the cancellation of classes.

One parent, identified as Amanda Dehn Bowman, wrote on the Facebook page that she was "disappointed" in the school district's decision to "cave to the massive temper-tantrum" from left-wing groups.

"The only people who are going to be affected by this are women -- poor women who cannot afford to miss wages or pay for day care," Bowman wrote. For parents unable to afford child care, Bowman offered to baby-sit their children for free.

"We understand that when schools close there is an impact on families who may have to find unanticipated child care," added Crawley. "We apologize for this unforeseen burden on parents and thank you for your patience and understanding."

Many other parents, however, expressed their support for the decision.

"I'm really proud that so many teachers want to participate in the Day Without A Woman. It takes a lot of courage. So glad these women are teaching my daughter," wrote Heather Ignatius.

Jessica Osborne, a single parent whose daughter is a high school student in the district, acknowledged the hardship some parents face in trying to find child care. But Osborne told Fox News she fully supported the principles behind the demonstration -- and said she did not view the protest as anti-Trump.

"I don’t see it as an anti-Trump event. I see it as a pro-woman event," Osborne told Fox News.

"I think it’s great that schools are participating," she said.

"At the end of the day, kids not being in school for a day is really in the grand scheme of things a first-world problem," said Osborne. "The fact that we can demonstrate peacefully in this country is something we should all be grateful for."