President Barack Obama plans to address the nation's students at 11 a.m. Tuesday about the importance of education, but several parents in the Brainerd School District have already called the district to object, saying that they don't want their children watching it.
In the 15-minute speech, Obama will speak directly to students on the first day of school about the importance of taking responsibility for their education and challenging them to set goals and do everything they can to succeed, according to a White House news release. The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging teachers to create lesson plans around the speech using materials provided online by the department that urge students to learn about Obama and other U.S. presidents and have students set their own goals.
Brainerd Superintendent Steve Razidlo said many of the phone calls, mostly received Thursday, were parents objecting to the address being shown. About a dozen calls were received at the district office and many other calls were received at the middle and high school offices, he said.
"We've heard calls from the public that primarily don't trust that a message won't be a political message and that it's not appropriate to politicize the first day of school," said Razidlo.
At least one group, the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, is urging parents in their "Hall Pass on That" campaign to contact their child's school to find out whether or not the school will show Obama's speech Tuesday. If the school is participating, the coalition asks the parent to find out what alternatives there are for families and if the school can excuse their child from participating. The coalition also urges parents to contact school board members, superintendents and principals to find out why parents were excluded from the decision-making process of participating in this event.
Brainerd students won't be watching Obama's speech live, but that's because the district's new video use policy requires that all video presentations be previewed before being shown to students, said Razidlo.
Razidlo said district administrators will make the decision whether to show Obama's speech after they have viewed it themselves. If it is shown, it'll likely be made available to middle and high school students only.
"We're going to preview the message and make the decision," said Razidlo. "If it's a general message to encourage students to do their best, it may be absolutely appropriate to show in school. We'll make that decision after we see it."
Pequot Lakes Superintendent Rick Linnell said as of Thursday afternoon the district had received one call from a concerned parent about Obama's speech being shown to students. Linnell said he'll likely recommend that the address be recorded and made available for teachers to show in the future in their classrooms.
"Certainly, any parent can opt out of that if a teacher decides to show it," said Linnell. "I think that's appropriate if they want. In our district, that's not a problem."
Crosby-Ironton Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland said the district received one inquiry from a concerned parent but school staffers weren't sure if that parent was for or against students watching Obama's speech. Skjeveland said the first day of school is a busy one for staff and students, so an all-school assembly will not be planned for students to watch Obama's address. However, he said if teachers feel Obama's speech fits into their curriculum, they may show it live on Tuesday.
Pillager Superintendent Chuck Arns said as of Tuesday afternoon he'd received two calls about this issue but he planned to make a decision Friday. He said the school will likely try to accommodate everyone by providing students an opportunity to watch or not watch it.
"It's not a neutral issue out there, it's kind of a hot coal in a sense that people have pretty strong opinions," said Arns. "I really haven't made a decision yet but we'll try to accommodate both sides."
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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