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Ferguson Schools Closed Through Friday as Unrest Continues in the City

Schools in Ferguson, Mo., which has been the scene of unrest since an 18-year-old unarmed African-American man was shot on Aug 9., will be closed through Friday.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District said that "due to continued unrest in and around" the city, the decision was made to keep schools closed through Friday, Aug. 22.  The new opening date for the school year is now Monday, Aug. 25.

"We believe that closing schools for the rest of this week will allow needed time for peace and stability to be restored to our community and allow families to plan ahead for the additional days that children will be out of school," the district said in a note posted on its website.

Nearby Jennings and Riverview Gardens School district officials also decided to keep the doors closed on Tuesday.

The Jennings district actually opened last Tuesday, but was closed on Monday because of the widespread protests over the weekend, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson told Education Week on Monday, expressing hope that students would return to classes on Tuesday.

 Anderson said Monday that if the schools remained closed Tuesday, she hoped that principals and students would engage in a day of service.

"It certainly saddens us that there is continued unrest in Ferguson. While the incidents were contained in Ferguson, out of an abundance of caution in regards to traffic flow for students walking to school, we will assess matters an additional day and we will use Tuesday as a staff development day for staff to prepare for students on Wednesday," the note posted on the district's website read.

Anderson had expressed worry on Monday about students and families that may not be able to get to schools safely in a district where nearly all students walk to school.  About 90 percent of the students received free and reduced-price meals and the district runs a food pantry to help families, she said. 

Schools will be open from noon to 1 p.m. so that students will be able to pick up lunch and access mental health services. Deliveries will be made in some cases, according to the district. 

Riverview Gardens also made provisions for parents to pick up lunch at three schools on Tuesday, although classes were canceled.  Staff was asked to report to work. 

 "All school closure decisions are made with the safety and security for all students as our first priority," the Riverview Gardens district said. 

Tempers continued to flare in the city on Monday night as peaceful daytime protests devolved into violence at night, with police throwing tear gas at those who failed to disperse, The New York Times reports. Fires burned; shots were fired at the police, the paper said. 

Two men were shot overnight— by people in the crowd, according to police— and about 31 people, some from California and New York, had been arrested, The New York Times reports.  

 Although a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday was removed on Monday after the governor called in the National Guard to help maintain the peace, police asked protesters to disperse beginning around midnight. 

 In a press conference on Monday afternoon, President Obama addressed the turmoil in Ferguson, calling for cooler heads to prevail. (The full transcript, via The Washington Post, can be read here.)

 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to arrive in Ferguson on Wednesday, where employees from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working on a criminal investigation. The Justice Department has also opened an independent civil rights investigation into the shooting, Obama said. 

The president chastised the "small minority" of individuals who were not protesting peacefully. 

 "While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos," he said. "It undermines rather than advancing justice."

 Mr. Obama said that "in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. "

According to Mr. Obama, "You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college," but he was equally clear that he was not excusing those who committed crimes, saying that those who did so needed to be prosecuted.

Programs such as My Brothers' Keeper, the president's $200 million initiative to help boys of color, are working toward creating more opportunities for boys of color and reducing some of the challenges they face, he said.

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