Obama speech spurs concerns among parents | September 11, 2009 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - September 11, 2009

Obama speech spurs concerns among parents

District superintendent says banning speech is 'inconceivable'

by Geoff Gillette

Plans by President Barack Obama to address students across the nation Tuesday met with protest from parents across the country who said they were opposed to the president "pushing an agenda" with their children.

The furor raised over the issue prompted action at both the local and the national level. In the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, some parents discussed the possibility of bringing their children to school late Tuesday in order to not be in the classroom during the president's presentation.

White House officials released a transcript of the speech over the Labor Day weekend in order to defuse accusations that the President would be politicizing a speech touted to be regarding education. Changes were also made to the Department of Education's suggested activities after the speech was delivered.

One such change was in a writing suggestion that had been offered. Instead of writing about things they could do to help the President, it was suggested that students write about what they can do to improve themselves.

Locally, the concerns being raised prompted SRVUSD School Superintendent Steven Enoch to send out an e-mail Monday to parents in the district explaining that coverage of the speech was optional and he expected that some teachers would incorporate the presidential address into their classes and others would not.

"To dictate that all classes watch would be inconsistent with how we deal with such unplanned events that periodically occur. Teachers are the ones who decide how to structure their instructional day," Enoch wrote. "Likewise, the notion of banning this 15-20 minute talk from the President of the United States is inconceivable to me and I am disappointed that apparently a few school districts across the country have taken such action."

Across the district, the reaction varied from school to school, with some teachers streaming the video into their classrooms and others choosing not to air it.

At the end of the day Tuesday, Enoch said he had not heard of any problems or issues in regards to the President's speech.

"We've had generally positive feedback," he said. "The only thing I did hear was that a few schools had trouble downloading it." Enoch explained that video feeds like the White House broadcast use up a lot of a school's available bandwidth, making it difficult if not impossible for teachers to stream it.

Enoch said he was surprised by the protests against airing the speech, especially after the transcript was posted online so that parents could see what would be said to their children.

"I believe that most parents once they saw the content of the speech, did not have a problem with it," he said.

He added, "For me, anytime I can get a President, any President, to talk to students about the importance of education and of staying in school, I applaud that. And I appreciate it, because it's the message we try to send every day."