Speech won’t be live in local schools|Beaufort County Schools to allow recorded version of remarks in some classes

Published 4:01 pm Sunday, September 6, 2009

Community Editor

Beaufort County’s school system is taking the middle road in the debate over President Barack Obama’s upcoming televised back-to-school speech.
County schools will not air the address — set for a noon broadcast on Tuesday and expected to last 15 to 20 minutes — live, according to Sarah Hodges, Beaufort County Schools’ public-information officer.
The school system is giving K-12 teachers the option of showing a recorded version of the speech, if it relates to their students’ course of study, she said.
That decision was made based on technical and logistical issues, among other concerns, she said.
The school system said the speech, which will be shown live on the White House Web site and on a government-focused cable channel, would not be accessible from some classrooms at schools in the county because of technical issues. The noon airtime would also affect accessibility for students on lunch break.
“There is no way every (student) could’ve seen it live,” Hodges said.
The school system also was inundated with calls from concerned parents.
“There have been some questions (from parents),” Hodges said.
The Associated Press reported Friday morning that school districts across the country were dealing with similarly concerned parents since the debate began after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to principals urging schools to let their students watch.
School districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students, The Associated Press reported.
Local conservatives, as well as others around the country, said Obama is using the speech to promote a political agenda.
“Obama needs to do his own job and leave everyone else alone,” said Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson.
Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell went so far as to compare the Obama administration to “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”
“As far as I am concerned, this is not a civics education. It gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” he told The Associated Press.
The White House will release a script of the speech online Monday so parents may read it. He will give the speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.
“I think we’ve reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can’t tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Friday morning. “I think both political parties agree that the dropout rate is something that threatens our long-term economic success.”
Gibbs told The Associated Press that former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush delivered similar speeches to students.
Bush faced criticism from Democrats, who called the Bush event a campaign ploy.