- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

Loudoun County Public Schools will not be airing President Obama’s back-to-school address Tuesday because it did not fit in with the day’s schedule, school officials said Thursday.

“It’s a very busy day, and there are logistics of getting 59,000 kids settled into school,” said Wayde Byard, a school system spokesman. “It’s not that we don’t appreciate the offer from the Department of Education, it just did not fit into our plans.”

The district will not ban the speech and claims the move is “not a political statement,” Mr. Byard added.

The address will be available online to teachers at a later date and available to build lesson plans around, he said.

Other Virginia schools are fielding questions about the back-to-school speech Mr. Obama plans to make to students after conservative columnists and talk-radio hosts roundly criticized what they’re calling an attempt to indoctrinate children.

Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said Thursday that a number of school divisions asked the agency for guidance this week after local officials heard from parents concerned about the address.

The department says it’s up to local divisions to determine whether a school or class views the address. Teachers who choose to incorporate the president’s speech into their lessons are also free to develop their own classroom activities, Mr. Pyle said.

Mr. Obama plans to speak directly to school-age children via a broadcast from Arlington on Tuesday as part of an attempt to highlight the importance of taking responsibility for their education and staying in school. “My Education, My Future” events also will feature Cabinet members and other senior administration officials appearing at schools nationwide to discuss education with students.

Numerous conservative columnists and talk-radio personalities lashed out at the effort earlier this week, calling it brainwashing and worse. Glenn Beck called it “the indoctrination of your children,” and Michelle Malkin’s column was titled: “Obama’s classroom campaign: No junior lobbyist left behind.”

The state education department is encouraging schools that participate in Tuesday’s event “to make reasonable accommodations for students whose parents may object to the viewing of the speech by their children during the school day,” Mr. Pyle said.

A handful of parents called the department, and some parents were more concerned about the suggested activities that were to accompany the speech than the speech itself, Mr. Pyle said. Others felt strongly that students should watch the speech.

Powhatan County’s school division is also opting out of watching the live broadcast primarily because activities are already planned for the first day of school, Superintendent Margaret Meara said Thursday.

“This is not an indication of any disrespect for the president,” she said. “We received extremely short notice of the planned speech.”

Bill Craig, the district’s assistant superintendent for elementary education, said Powhatan teachers won’t be allowed to incorporate the video address into future lesson plans, though he didn’t say why. Mr. Craig said school administrators haven’t made a decision on whether to use the supplementary lessons accompanying Mr. Obama’s address.

School officials will record the address and make it available at parents’ request.

Mr. Craig said Powhatan school officials heard from parents opposed to letting their children watch the address and those who want their children to see it. He was unable to say how many were for or against.

Staff writer Kristi Jourdan contributed to this report.

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