ANNAPOLIS – Classrooms across Maryland were a little quieter Thursday as parents took their daughters — and sons — out of school for “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.”
While some school systems played down the event, all said they would allow the day as an excused absence for children whose parents took them to the workplace for the day.
Some counties actively encouraged the event and teachers in many schools around the state said they were teaching to only a fraction of their students.
“I had six kids come to school today and I normally have 27,” said Jamie Welch, a fourth-grade teacher at Centreville Elementary School in Queen Anne’s County. “The rest are all at work.”
Dorchester County school officials reported that nearly 30 percent of their students were not in class Thursday.
Baltimore County did not even try to compete with “Take Our Daughters to Work Day” this year, instead scheduling a teacher work day and closing classes after high absentee rates in years past.
“It really makes instruction impossible,” when large numbers of students are missing from school, said Donald Mohler, assistant to the Baltimore County superintendent.
Many schools and companies in the state were touting the day as “Take Your Children to Work Day,” in an effort to avoid slighting boys. The gender-neutral approach to the day was adopted by school systems in Allegany, Charles, Dorchester, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.
“We had an outcry from parents who thought it was a good activity, but felt it was also equally important for the male children,” said Queen Anne’s County Superintendent Bernard Sadusky. “It’s gender-neutral.”
But officials with the Ms. Foundation, which started the day six years ago, said including sons is missing the point. The day was designed to boost girls’ self-esteem and help them shape career and education goals, they said.
“Our intention is to get girls the type of attention they may not get,” said Melissa Silverstein, chief of staff for the Ms. Foundation in New York. “Girls need to see firsthand women who are in the workforce who are valued for skills, intellect and leadership ability.”
Brandy Chew took her daughter, Shakena, 14, out of Martin Luther King Middle School in Beltsville to her job as a legal secretary in Washington. Not only was it “a little bonding period” for mother and daughter, but it also let Shakena know that her mother does not “go off into an abyss” every morning.
“It gives them an overall view of where their parents go every day,” said Chew.
Across Maryland, many school systems promoted the day as a way for parents and children, regardless of sex, to spend quality time together.
“It’s a family thing,” said Jim Smith, director of personnel for Allegany County schools. “It gives kids a chance to see what parents do for a living.”
Dorchester County schools sent fliers home with children in grades four through eight, encouraging parents to participate in the day. As a result, about 28 percent of students in the county were absent Thursday, said Kathy Elzey, a secretary in the county’s office of pupil services.
Elzey’s son, Brandon Hall, estimated that about 20 of his 33 classmates at Maces Lane Middle School were out with their parents for the day. He was helping his mother with mailings and running errands as he observed what she does at work.
“It’s pretty busy,” said Brandon, 12, who wanted to come to work with his mother to see what she does in the “real world.”
Most schools allowed the day as an excused absence if parents notified the principal or teacher before Thursday, but students will have to make up any missed assignments.
Elzey said students were marked “present” for the day if their parents sent a note to the school. Brandon got out of functional math tests Thursday, but will take a make-up test.
Charles County school officials “weren’t really endorsing” the event this year because functional tests for high school students were scheduled Thursday, said Cyndi Romeo, a secretary in the county schools’ educational and career options office.
Thousands of Charles County students participated last year after school officials sent parents forms encouraging them to participate, Romeo said.
Other school systems had no specific policy for the day.
“In past years, it has not been highly subscribed to,” said Ed Davis, director of pupil services for Carroll County.
Washington County is officially supportive of the day, even though some dissenters wonder why it is not observed when school is not in session, said Bill McKinley, executive director of support services for that county’s schools.
But Prince George’s County schools spokeswoman Susan Hubbard said the observance is beneficial for the parent and child.
“It’s an interesting learning experience for both of them,” she said. — Capital News Service reporters Scott Albright, Chris Bubeck, Kelly Cramer, Chris Gosier and Daniel Valentine contributed to this article.