Menu

Politics

Some Parents Choose Not to Allow Their Kids to Hear Obama's National Address

Regine Gordon doesn't want her 6-year-old son to hear from President Obama next week.

Gordon, of Tampa, Fla., is among a growing number of parents across the country who are troubled by the president's plan to address elementary, middle and high school students in an online and televised speech Tuesday. 

"It's a form of indoctrination, and I think, really, it's indicative of the culture that the Obama administration is trying to create," Gordon told FOXNews.com on Thursday. "It's very socialistic."

After writing letters to her congressmen and school officials, Gordon said her son, David, will be allowed to participate in an alternative activity at Gorrie Elementary School during Obama's address, which comes on the first day of school for many children.

"I'm waiting to hear from his teacher, but I have told them to go ahead and I'd like [David] to go do something else," Gordon said. "It's kind of like going through the children to get to their parents. Children are very vulnerable and excited. I mean, this is the president. I think it's an underhanded tactic and indicative of the way things are being done."

But some parents won't be allowed to "opt-out" their kids everywhere. At least one school district, Tempe Elementary School District No. 3 in Arizona, is not permitting parents to pull their children out of class during Obama's speech.

"I have directed principals to have students and teachers view the president's message on Tuesday," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Arthur Tate Jr. said in a statement Thursday. "In some cases, where technology will not permit access to the White House Web site, DVDs will be provided to classes on subsequent days. I am not permitting parents to opt out students from viewing the president's message, since this is a purely educational event."

The White House said Wednesday that the president's address is intended to be an inspirational, pro-education message to all students at the beginning of the school year. But critics objected to the language of one of the lesson plans, for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 6, which suggested that students "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." Another assignment for students after hearing the speech was to discuss what "the president wants us to do."

The suggestion about writing letters has since been changed to: "Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the changes to the language are intended to make the lesson plans clearer. He added that the speech the president's speech will not be a policy speech, but is intended to encourage kids to work hard and commit to school.

But that hasn't assuaged concerns of Michelle Moore of St. Louis, who says she's considering keeping her two daughters out of the classroom at Lindberg High School when Obama begins to speak.

"I have to sign permission slips for my kids to watch R-rated movies in school," Moore said, explaining that she felt parents were being blindsided by the president's address. "It was simply presented, 'Hey, we're going to do this, this is when it's going to air and you're going to show it to your kids.'"

Moore suggested that the speech be issued as a DVD to students so they can view it with their parents at home, adding that the first day of classes for many students will be a harried affair.

"That's their first day," she said. "I would think they have plenty of other things to do."

The idea of having Obama speak directly to children without so much as a permission slip being sent home just "makes you feel a little funny," said Beth Milledge of Winterset, Iowa. She said she plans on going to school with her 8-year-old son to watch the address with him.

"I want to know how it's being presented," she said. "I'm all for my child having respect for the president, but why wouldn't he show us the speech first and then go from there?"

Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, has started a campaign to ask schools to provide an alternative to the speech for parents who do not wish their children to experience a presidential address in school. Loesch has urged parents to contact schools directly to find out if the "partisan presentation" will air in their child's classroom.

"It went straight from the Department of Education right to the principals," Loesch told FOX News. "There's a lot of parents who have spoken to me [and] they've talked to their principals, and it kind of 'weirded' them out a little because this is also the first that protocol has been skipped."

Several school districts contacted by FOXNews.com, including those in Milwaukee and St. Louis, said individual teachers will decide whether to air the address in their classrooms.

"We're allowing teachers to decide," an Austin, Texas, school official told FOXNews.com. "But most of the kids will be at lunch. It's not going to be a big issue here."

In Austin, school district officials say a speech by any sitting president is worthy of "Americans' time, attention and consideration," according to a statement by the Austin Independent School District (AISD) to FOXNews.com. Teachers who believe the address will be beneficial to their students will allow viewing in the classroom.

"It is AISD's expectation that viewing of this Web address will vary by campus and by classroom," the statement continued. "Parents will be advised by their campus principals to alert the school if they have a specific desire to have their child included in, or removed from, the viewing of the president's remarks."

Parents in Milwaukee will have the option to remove their children by "simply informing the school of their preference," spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said.

Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle told the Associated Press that a number of school divisions asked the agency for guidance this week after parents concerned with the address contacted local officials.

The department says it's up to districts to determine whether a school or class views the address, and teachers who choose to incorporate the president's speech into their lessons are also free to develop their own classroom activities, the Associated Press reports.

Other districts, including those in New York City and Boston, won't even have classes that day. Officials at the Philadelphia School District declined comment.

National Parent Teacher Association President Chuck Saylors told FOXNews.com the presidential speech is something that should have happened years ago.

"Regardless of who is in the White House, when the president of the United States wants to give the students a beginning-of-the-year, do-your-best type of presentation, it should be supported," he said. "[But] if parents want their children to opt-out, they're certainly in their rights to do that."

Several statewide parent teacher associations, including those in Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and others, did not respond to requests for comment on how their members are advising teachers how to present the presidential address in class.

Gainell Rogers, president-elect of the Utah Parent Teacher Association, said she has "confidence in the decisions" of local school officials.

"We believe that decisions in the best interest of students are most effective when made at the local level," Rogers told FOXNews.com. "Each local school district will decide what is best for their students and patrons and those decisions will reflect input from parents."