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Obama's speech out for many students
Many Fredericksburg-area schools will not be showing President Obama's back-to-school address

Date published: 9/5/2009

By PAMELA GOULD

BY JEFF BRANSCOME AND PAMELA GOULD

Spotsylvania County public-school students will watch President Barack Obama's back-to-school address Tuesday.

However, other Fredericksburg-area school systems won't show it or are leaving the decision up to principals amid complaints from many conservatives.

Obama will give the speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington County. It will be broadcast live at noon on C-SPAN and on the Web at whitehouse.gov. It will last 15 to 20 minutes.

Tuesday is opening day for most area public schools, though Spotsylvania, Culpeper and Orange counties started last month.

School divisions in Stafford, Orange and King George counties will not show the live speech.

In Culpeper and Caroline counties, principals will decide whether to air it.

Fredericksburg Superintendent David Melton said teachers will make the final call. The speech's timing poses problems, he said, because it's on the first day of school and falls on many students' lunch breaks.

Melton said he hadn't received any calls from parents opposed to showing the speech.

The president will "urge students to take personal responsibility for their own education, to set goals, and to not only stay in school but make the most of it," according to the White House Web site.

The White House plans to release the speech Monday so that parents can read it, according to The Associated Press.

Still, some conservatives have complained that Obama is trying to "indoctrinate" students. School divisions across the country and locally have fielded complaints about the speech from parents.

Critics are particularly upset about lesson plans the administration created to accompany the speech.

Spotsylvania schools will honor notes from parents requesting that their children not watch the speech, said spokeswoman Sara Branner.

The division is showing the live speech because of its "historical significance," Branner said in a statement. In a letter encouraging school principals to show the speech, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan inaccurately wrote that it will be the first time a sitting president has addressed the nation's students directly.

In fact, President George H.W. Bush made a similar address to schools in 1991, from a junior high school in Washington. Democrats accused the Republican president of turning the event into a campaign commercial.


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