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Should students be able to opt out of President Obama's speech about education?



President Obama's back-to-school speech scheduled for next week has sparked political debates, name-calling, even references to Hitler in our schools blog, The Gradebook.

Tom-pantsonfire You might think that a speech on the importance of education would be a harmless topic. Not so for the Republican Party of Florida, which has "condemned President Obama's use of taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda." (The statement prompted a Pants-on-Fire ruling from Politifact.)

Some Pinellas students may not see the president's speech at all. Last night, Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen notified principals that showing the webcast was optional. "If you elect to do so," she said, "parents should be given adequate advance notice and the opportunity to opt out."

One Pinellas school board member said the move was appropriate, while the head of the Pinellas teachers union called it an overreaction. Readers on The Gradebook have posted more than 150 comments on the topic; some labeling the move racist, others saying it reflects poorly on Janssen.

"The fact that this is even considered controversial is frightening," a Gradebook reader wrote.

"It is ludicrous that a presidential address is raising such a ruckus," a teacher commented. "I thank the president for his concern over education and his willingness to stand as a role model of success for our children."

Several parents defended the district's call: "I want children to go to school to learn, not be propagandized. I want them to hear the teacher speak, not the president," Greg wrote.

At least one other school district in Florida, Seminole, is moving to do the same thing as Pinellas.

What do you think? Should parents be able to "opt out" for their children? If given the choice for your kids, what decision will you make?

[Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 3:56pm]


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