Local school reactions mixed over Obama talk

President Barack Obama

EAST HARRIS COUNTY — This week President Barack Obama held a speech directed at school-age children. In a move unique to the White House the speech was held during school hours.

Many students, however, did not get to see the address live with some districts in the area choosing not to show the address. Crosby ISD was an exception. Superintendent Mike Joseph said the address was broadcast live in campus libraries and auditoriums. Attendance was limited to those students who brought signed permission slips from home allowing them to see the speech.

Joseph said that the district has policies in place to address controversial issues and topics and when the speech was announced he followed that policy.

“This is a parents’ right issue,” he said.

The school district sent home letters to parents as well as posting the letter on their website, which advised parents of their right to stop their child from participating in any school activity they found objectionable. Copies of the address will be provided to social science and history teachers to use in their classes, he added.

The White House provided supplemental material for teachers to use in their lessons related to the speech. Crosby will not use the material, Joseph said.

Huffman ISD’s Superintendent Dr. Dog Killian said that his district would not broadcast the speech live.

Since the speech was held during lunch, Killian said that he did not think teachers should be forced to readjust their schedule to fit the speech.

Goose Creek CISD is also among the districts that did not broadcast the address live.

Superintendent Dr. Toby York said that like Huffman he would not disrupt the regular class schedule to allow for live viewing.

“As I have visited our campuses the past two weeks, it is apparent that students are engaged in learning that has been carefully planned by teachers and staff. I appreciate all of their efforts in utilizing our instructional time so efficiently,” Toby York wrote in letter sent home to parents.

York said that principals and teachers would be provided with a copy of the broadcast for use in social studies classes in the same way they would incorporate other national event broadcasts into relevant instructional activities.

Recognizing the controversial nature of the program, York said that the district would follow its written “opt-out” policy. According to the policy “a parent or guardian wishing to remove a student from a class or activity that conflicts with the parent’s religious or moral beliefs must provide a written statement authorizing the removal,” York said.”

In the letter to parents, they were instructed to inform the respective principals in writing by Sept. 4 if they objected to their child viewing the program.

“Campuses will provide an alternative instructional setting and activity for any student not viewing the broadcast,” he added.

York said that it was apparent that the President chose this particular date because it would coincide with the first day of school for many districts across the nation.