Grand County schools feel political pinch of Obama’s eduction speech
September 10, 2009
East Grand Schools were “bombarded” with calls from parents threatening to pull their children out of school for the day if teachers showed President Obama’s “National Address to America’s Schoolchildren” on Tuesday.
Prior to its showing in schools, the President’s 20-minute speech about working hard in school and taking personal responsibility set off a reaction not only at East Grand, but in the other parts of the country where some school districts opted to restrict the video feed altogether.
But not at East Grand Schools, according to Superintendent Nancy Karas.
Upon notice that the White House was scheduling an address to the nation’s schools, parents in the district area called administrators to ensure their children were not exposed to the speech. District administrators responded by accommodating those students with a separate activity while the rest of the class watched the speech.
But because the district left it up to faculty to decide whether the speech fit into lesson plans that day, only some classes watched Obama’s address, according to Karas.
The speech was shown in the middle school eighth-grade civics class, in at least two high school classes and a few of the elementary school classes, she said.
This set off parents whose children didn’t get to see the speech.
“Some (parents) were riled up because of the possibility of it being shown, and (other) parents were upset because the district didn’t make it a required showing. It was kind of a no-win situation,” said Middle School Principal Jeff Verosky.
“We weren’t discouraging anyone from seeing it or anyone from showing it,” Karas said, “but if someone didn’t want to see it, we made sure their wishes could be honored.”
As far as the substance of the speech itself, administrators saw it as innocuous, a speech about morals, not politics.
“Do I believe it was an important message? You bet I do,” Karas said. “We give it every day – that education is important.”
Karas added that in hindsight, she would have provided another solution such as a general assembly where students who wanted to see the speech could have.
At the heart of the issue, Craig Crippen of Granby whose son is a senior in the school and did not see the speech, addressed the parents who threatened to pull their students from school that day. To him, the speech would have been healthy for students to watch as a class, then to have discussion on.
“If you’re not going to let your child listen to a president because it’s not the president you voted for, it’s not really helping this country,” he said.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.