In the hours before a St. Louis County, Mo., grand jury returned its decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, school district officials in the region had already canceled classes and after-school activities in an effort to keep students safe.
The Nov. 24 announcement that the grand jury did not believe there was enough evidence to bring any criminal charges against Mr. Wilson sparked protests, along with some rioting and looting, in the Ferguson area. School district leaders had said they wanted to shield thousands of schoolchildren from the kind of unrest—some of it violent—that their communities had seen in the days after Mr. Brown, who was 18, was shot and killed by Mr. Wilson, who is white.
Districts in Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood, Normandy, Riverview Gardens, and the city of St. Louis canceled classes for the day immediately following the grand jury’s decision, while officials in the Jennings school district had decided to close schools for the entire week.
“History is unfolding before our eyes, and as educators we will keep in mind that our primary focus throughout these events must be teaching and learning,” Kelvin R. Adams, the St. Louis superintendent, wrote on his district’s website. “There will be many different opinions about the grand jury decision, and it is imperative that we remain professional and respectful at all times.”
The August shooting of Mr. Brown set off protests in and around Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 people. Some of the protests turned violent and were met with a police response that critics saw as inappropriately militarized. The events spurred debate about race, police practices, and the use of surplus military equipment by local police departments and even school districts.
School districts in and near Ferguson shut their doors for days because of the earlier unrest. The Ferguson-Florissant district did not open for nearly two weeks.
A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2014 edition of Education Week as St. Louis-Area Schools Close in Wake of Ferguson Decision