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Hartford Allows Teachers, Students Day Off for Million Man March

September 21, 1995

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Male students and teachers who are black or Hispanic may take a day off next month to take part in a Washington march organized by the Nation of Islam.

Teachers may use a paid personal day, under allowances reserved for religious holidays or illnesses, to attend, the city school board ruled Tuesday. Students may also take a day off, with parental permission, school officials said.

School administrators Wednesday said they need to establish ground rules and are not yet sure how many will be allowed to participate.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has billed the Oct. 16 Million Man March as a gesture of support from black men to black women, families, church and community.

The policy has created some confusion, said Betsy Ceriello, director of human resources for the Hartford school system.

``We don’t want to be deluged with requests except for people with personal commitments to this,″ Ceriello said. ``We might have opened up a box we didn’t intend to by approving the motion.″

As of midday Wednesday, only four teachers had applied to take the day off, she said. One was a woman, raising questions about whether the day-off provision should be extended to women even though the march is an all-male event.

Ceriello said it had not been determined if people may take the day off and observe Million Man March at home, or if only those traveling to Washington would be eligible.

The school department will pay participating teachers and also hire substitutes at about $70 per day.

Religious leaders and teachers urged the school board to endorse the idea.

``It is a holy day. There are not many holy days that we as African Americans can claim,″ said Leonard Epps, a teacher at Weaver High School. ``Teachers who want to take the day should be paid. It is just like any holy day. We should be rewarded.″

Mark Stapleton, an attorney for the state Department of Education, said the Hartford School Board may allow its own holidays, so long as it observes all state-mandated ones and provides 180 days of school for students.

``It’s really not a holiday. If people are participating with parental consent, it’s OK,″ Stapleton said.

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