Veterans day stand downBy Shelby R. Farrell


BELVIDERE –Local veterans and Belvidere residents stood up for the city’s students in a “Stand Down” fighting the school district’s decision to hold school on Veterans Day.

Belvidere’s schools are usually empty on Nov. 11 for nationally recognized holiday Veterans Day, but this year more than just the students and faculty arrived at Belvidere High School that morning. About 150 veterans from the City of Belvidere and surrounding areas gathered along East Avenue to show their disapproval of the school district’s decision to hold classes on Veterans Day.

Rob Torbert, president of the School District #100 Board of Education, said the decision to have school on that day was decided more than a year and a half ago, and they “couldn’t have guessed” the controversy it would have caused. He said the schedule originally listed the day as not having school, but the Boone County Fair schedule coincided with the beginning of the school year, and members of the community complained to the board.

“We re-met and adjusted to accommodate the fair with intentions of celebrating the holiday,” he said. “It’s not just another school day.”

“We deal with issues other districts might not have to deal with trying to fit a semester between the fair and Christmas. Choices were made and not all was thought of, but it’s not meant to disrespect anyone.”

Consequently, the annual Veterans Day parade was cancelled because the school bands and scout troops would be in school and unable to participate. Community outrage ensued, and a Facebook post began circulating calling all veterans, family and friends to “Stand Down” in front of Belvidere High School in a peaceful protest.

Tracy Tsikretsis has been a Belvidere resident for over 15 years, and more than 15 of her family members have served over 20 tours overseas in the military. She said she usually takes her two daughters to the Veterans Day Parade and Veterans Memorial Hall on Nov. 11.

However, on this Veterans Day she took her daughters out of school, and they began their day by standing outside of Belvidere High School at the “Stand Down” instead of along State Street for the parade.

“It was declared a national holiday years ago, and unfortunately the kids don’t know what it’s about,” she said.

Her daughter, Chloe Farnham, is a senior at Belvidere High School, and she said she hasn’t been taught much about the holiday in school. However, signage supporting the holiday was visible behind the peaceful protest in the high school’s windows, and the school district posted a list of Veterans Day-related activities at all of the schools throughout the week.

Meehan Elementary School hosts a community-wide celebration the day before Veterans Day every year, but most of the other school’s activities consisted of hanging flags, singing the Star Spangled Banner or getting to visit with local veterans. Farnham said the only thing she did at school for the holiday this year was writing a letter for her psychology course.

Another protestor and Marine Veteran Bob Basher said his main concern isn’t that the students were in school on Veterans Day, but that they were missing out on other educational opportunities.

“We got a generation of children here that’s not gonna understand what the 11th of November is all about, and if we let this keep going it’s gonna be a forgotten thing,” he said. “I mean, the kids are being cheated out of an education on this part. I don’t believe in taking kids out of school, don’t misunderstand me, but this is part of their education also.”

Torbert said the intention wasn’t to have the parade cancelled, but he is hoping the exposure to Veterans Day in the school district can further the students’ educations. While the schools can host assemblies or make holiday-related assignments, school officials can’t make the students attend a parade or visit a veteran memorial on a day out of school.

“It’s good to draw attention to the holiday,” Torbert said. “We’re proud of efforts made in our schools. I mean, it’s cool to have 7,000 or 8,000 kids participating in a holiday at once.”

Torbert said the school district would probably be out of school on Veterans Day next year. The earliest that the Board of Education would vote on the schedule for the 2016-2017 school year would be at the meeting on Dec. 14.

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