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Washington Co. Public Schools won't air Obama speech live

September 04, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

o Some parents oppose airing Obama's speech in schools

TRI-STATE - Washington County Public Schools won't air President Obama's live noontime address to America's children Tuesday.

Elsewhere in the Tri-State region, school systems in Chambersburg, Pa., and Berkeley County, W.Va., plan to show the speech, but students won't be required to watch.

Elizabeth Morgan, Washington County's superintendent, said logistical questions were too large to work out in a short time.

Many parents pledged to pull students from class instead of listening to the speech, she said. With only a few days to figure out how to accommodate children who didn't watch, the school system decided not to air the address, Morgan said.

Families can see the speech on C-SPAN or the White House Web site at www.whitehouse.gov, the school system said in a news release.

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The system will have links to the speech on its Web site at www.wcps.k12.md.us and will put DVD copies in each school's library.

The U.S. Department of Education's Web site says Obama plans to speak for 15 or 20 minutes.

"During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school," the Web site says. "The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning."

The department has suggested related classroom activities.

Morgan said senior staff in Washington County Public School helped make the decision not to air the speech. School board members weighed in, too.

She said students need to hear the importance of staying in school, having goals and going to college, especially from the president.

At the same time, many parents objected to the speech, and the school system realized there were a range of views, Morgan said.

"I respect parents' wishes," she said, "but I also respect the office of the president."

Morgan said the school system didn't know about the speech until Wednesday, when a parent urged that it not be aired in school.

By then, there was little time to figure out the best way to divide the thousands of students in the school system based on whether they watched.

Morgan said she would have liked to have shown the speech and had an opt-out choice for families.

News media have reported on complaints about the speech in school systems across the country. Morgan said Washington County received both positive and negative comments from parents.

In Berkeley County, "Each school will have the broadcast available if students and staff members wish to view it," according to a written statement.

The school system also encouraged families to watch the address on their own and discuss education together.

The Chambersburg Area School District said in a statement that it "believes that the President's speech, which will be of a nonpolitical nature, may be useful in Social Studies classes at the secondary level only and as part of the overall curriculum ... It is worth noting that the viewing of this speech is consistent with the past practice in the District of inviting our teachers to 'tune in' (whether via TV or Web cast) to national or international events deemed historical in nature, like a Presidential Inauguration, or widely impacting, like the tearing down of the Berlin Wall."

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