Obama’s student address optional

Published 6:03 pm Friday, September 4, 2009

Chilton County Superintendent of Education Keith Moore is letting school principals decide whether or not to air President Barack Obama’s back-to-school address to students Sept. 8.

Moore is requiring, however, that each participating school provide a central location in the school building rather than show the broadcast in individual classrooms.

“Some of our schools are going to show it, but we’re providing a central location,” he said.

Moore said the system received a letter from State Superintendent Joe Morton explaining that showing the speech is not mandatory and that schools are not expected to miss lunch or important exams.

Obama’s address is scheduled to air Tuesday at 11 a.m. on cable news network C-SPAN and on the White House Web site.

It will be broadcast live from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

“If they don’t want to watch it, they don’t have to,” Moore said. “We have to continue on with our basic instruction that day.”

The Chilton County Board of Education’s central office has received a large volume of calls on the subject.

The same controversy is evident nationwide, and districts in several states including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin have opted not to show the speech to students.

Other districts, like Chilton’s, are allowing schools or individuals to decide for themselves. Still, others are mulling it over.

Some conservatives have tried to get parents and schools to boycott the address.

While some believe the President is overstepping his boundaries, others see the speech as a memorable opportunity for students to hear their president address the younger generation.

This won’t be the first time a U.S. President has addressed students.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush gave a publicly televised anti-drug speech.

Three years earlier, President Ronald Reagan’s commencement speech and Q&A session were viewed by school districts nationwide.

When asked, Moore said he had no comment on whether he would advise students to watch the broadcast.

“I don’t know what’s going to be said,” he said.

Parents can preview the speech online Monday on the White House Web site.

For more information, contact your child’s school.