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Girls & Women

Schools Across the Country Close in Response to 'A Day Without A Woman'

Of all of the preschool and kindergarten teachers in the US, an astounding 97% of them are women. Of all the public school teachers, women make up 76%. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day and the US responds with a nationwide general strike, one thing can certainly be drawn from these figures: school’s out.

Dozens of schools on the East Coast have announced that they will be closed on Wednesday in response to a “Day Without A Woman.” The strike asks women to take a day off work, refrain from spending money, wear red in solidarity, and hold back from all the fake smiles that are expected of them.

Along with standing up to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity, these protesters are vowing to remain defiant in the face of President Trump’s many offensive statements and policies regarding women.

Read More: #SheDecides: Meet the Real Women Under Threat From Trump’s Attacks on Women’s Health

These actions are meant to underscore the economic, political, and social contributions women around the world make daily “while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities,” according to the organizers who also organized the Women’s March on Washington.

Anticipating staff shortages, all 16 public schools in Alexandria, Virginia, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina, several in Prince George’s County Maryland, and one preschool in Brooklyn, New York have cancelled classes.

“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,” stated Virginia’s Alexandria City Public Schools on its website after more than 300 staff members requested leave. “It is not based on a political stance or position,” the message reads.  

Similarly, the New School in New York, is reported to have granted faculty members “flexibility” in cancelling classes, supporting the strike after nearly 20 female faculty members wrote a letter to their colleagues. The university has urged its managers to be “as receptive as possible” to any staff who intend on participating.

Read More: Women Around the World Are Striking on March 8: Here's What You Need to Know

Prince George’s County Public Schools shut down after 1,700 teachers and almost a third of their transportation staff requested the day off in observance of the UN-designated day.

With a frozen school system, the strike reminds the nation how indispensable women are to education.

“We want this to be a day where women feel empowered to take a stance on their value in the workplace and the world beyond,” Women’s March spokesperson Cassady Fendlay said.

Of course, not all women in the workplace have the liberty or luxury of sitting out. For women with minimum-wage jobs, the closings may only lead to higher living costs and, consequently, more labor.

Durham schools, for one, will stay open.

Read more: US Gets Ready for 'Day Without Immigrants' Rallies and Strikes

“Just as many of our low-income families have difficulty finding child care during an inclement weather day, having an unscheduled teacher workday on Wednesday would create an additional hardship and safety concern for our out-of-school students and their families,” said Durham School District Superintendent Bert L’Homme in a statement. “In addition, many of our lower-income employees such as bus drivers and child nutrition staff would lose a day of pay if we were closed to students.”

Nevertheless, women are still finding their own way to strike — sporting red, withholding from spending money, standing in solidarity with the others who march for them.

“While the most impactful way would be to take the day off,” Fendlay said, “we realize that many women in our most vulnerable communities or whose jobs provide essential services, including reproductive health services, will not have the ability to join the strike. We strike for each of them, and we look forward to seeing the creative ways both men and women will showcase their support.”