Obama's speech not required viewing in school

The Richmond County school system is again trying to make clear that it doesn't plan to force teachers to show President Obama's back-to-school address live to pupils Tuesday.


An e-mail sent to media Friday by schools spokesman Louis Svehla on behalf of Superintendent Dana Bedden states that the district has gotten a number of calls about the speech and whether teachers are going to be required to show it.

The e-mail states that Dr. Bedden is sending notices to parents, teachers and staff that there will be no systemwide requirement or mandatory watching of the speech.

"It is my expectation that teachers will provide standards-based instruction aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards," Dr. Bedden says in the e-mail. "If a teacher decides to show the video as part of their normal lesson planning and instructional period, it is my expectation that the viewing and any subsequent discussion be tied directly to the Georgia Performance Standards. Also, it's important that any parent or student who indicates they do not want to watch the video have that option to not participate and receive an alternative assignment."

Included in the e-mail is a message from state Superintendent Kathy Cox, who states that the White House and the U.S. Department of Education did not involve the Georgia Department of Education in the event's planning. She states that a letter inviting students to view the speech was sent directly to principals and local superintendents, not to her department.

"There is nothing in state or federal law that would require or prohibit a school from showing this speech to students, and the decision lies completely with local school officials," Ms. Cox states in her message.

She gives the Web site -- whitehouse.gov/mediaresources -- where the webcast can be viewed after school if districts decide not to show it live.

Columbia County schools will not show the broadcast live, according to Superintendent Charles Nagle.

Mr. Obama's speech has become the latest political hot potato of his young administration, as some conservative critics have raised concerns that the president will push his political agenda during his address. The president's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, has dismissed the criticisms as political nonsense.

"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," Mr. Gibbs told reporters Friday. "I think both political parties agree that the dropout rate is something that threatens our long-term economic success."

Reach Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218 or mike.wynn@augustachronicle.com.


President Obama will deliver a back-to-school address to students across the nation noon Tuesday. The 15- to 20-minute speech will be broadcast via the Web and on C-SPAN.