Florida School Districts Allow Opt-Out Of Obama's Speech
School districts in the Tampa Bay Florida area will allow parents to opt their children out of viewing President Obama's address to American school children on Sept. 8. The mechanics of the opt-out vary from county to county. Some school districts will allow excused absences and others will send out "permission slips" requiring parents to sign off on opt-out or permission.
Hillsborough County schools will only air the speech if it is connected to the curriculum and will not notify parents of the speech. However parents can notify the school district if they want their kids opted out.
Broward County Florida, with its heavily Democrat party affiliation, will not allow parents to opt their children out of viewing President Obama's speech on Tuesday. According to Broward County school superintendent James Notter, Letting students opt out "does not align with our practices and responsibility to provide a well rounded, quality education."
School districts are not required to air the speech, but the possibility had superintendents around Florida and nationwide scrambling Thursday to mollify upset parents.
Dorine McKinnon intends to keep her child home. "I obviously do not agree that it is appropriate for him to propagandize our children in that agenda,'' the mother of a Pinellas Middle School student wrote in an e-mail to the School Board.
Tampa Bay area school officials, who fielded dozens of calls and e-mails, will allow parents to "opt out" students from viewing the 15 to 20 minute speech.
McKinnon said she was particularly concerned about suggested classroom activities posted on the Department of Education Web site.
Possible discussion topics to accompany the speech include, "What new ideas and actions is the president challenging me to think about?"
Originally, another proposed activity would have encouraged students to discuss how they could "help" the president.
Children shouldn't be asked to "pledge support for President Obama," McKinnon wrote.
The White House, which insists that the speech only will tout the value of education, has since removed that item.
Seminole resident Steve Grabe, with four children in Pinellas schools, e-mailed the board to suggest that the speech be taped and accompanied by dueling "talking heads" who support and oppose Obama.
"Our nation is presently engaged in an energetic debate" about health care, global warming, Iraq, terrorism and freedom of speech, Grabe said. "I see no reason … that the President be given unfettered access to children who may not be inclined to examine alternate viewpoints."
In Florida, heavily Democratic Broward County will not allow students to skip the speech, despite several parental protests. Letting students opt out "does not align with our practices and responsibility to provide a well rounded, quality education," superintendent James Notter wrote in a memo.
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