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Women's Demonstration Prompts North Carolina District to Cancel Classes

Expecting large staff absences next week on International Women's Day, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district in North Carolina has canceled classes.

March 8 is International Women's Day, and a one-day protest billed as  "A Day Without a Woman," is planned around the world. The organizers are urging women to take the day off from paid and unpaid work, refrain from shopping, except at small businesses and those owned by women and minorities, and to wear red in a show of solidarity.

The one-day demonstration is being promoted by the group that put together the Women's March on Jan. 21, when millions of women and men across the world mobilized for women's rights and in protest of the new Trump administration. 

If female educators across the country join the demonstration en masse, it could cause staffing challenges for schools. Public education is a female-dominated profession: In the 2011-12 school year, about 76 percent of public school teachers and about 52 percent of public school principals were women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

About 75 percent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro employees are women, the News & Observer reported.

This is not to say that all women identify with the causes of the Women's March or will join the demonstration.

While many women will not participate in the demonstration, Jim Causby, the superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district, said in a statement that a survey by principals and central office employees of staff showed that absences could be widespread.

The results showed that "the number was significant." He determined that he would not have enough staff to safely run the schools and made the decision to change the day to an optional teacher workday, he said.

"While Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools values and supports its female employees, the decision to close schools is not a political statement," Causby said. "It is entirely about the safety of students and the district's inability to operate with a high number of staff absences."

In addition to canceling classes, the district will not have on-site childcare services on March 8. Students will not be required to make up the day because the district has enough instructional days to meet requirements, he said. 

Last month, some schools faced similar staffing shortages, as well as student absences, as part of a "Day Without an Immigrant" demonstrations and boycotts that were largely a protest of the Trump administration's immigration policies.

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