Obama's talk to students stirring up East Texas controversy

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It's a topic that has people going head to head.

"As a former public school teacher, I am not at all in approval," said one Tyler resident. "I think it is the wrong venue."

"He is a role model regardless of what people think about Obama," said Van Dai of Tyler. "If the kids have an opportunity to learn from him, I think that is a great opportunity."

The fuel behind the debate? President Obama will address school-aged children on Tuesday about the importance of staying in school and personal responsibility.

"I really don't feel like he needs to come into our homes and do the parents job," said Susan George. "It is our job as parents to teach our children to goal set. Not the federal government."

The White House and Department of Education originally asked teachers to have students "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president" but, after outcry from Republican leaders and parents, they changed the assignment.

"It seems like they're coercing the students in some manner to being in favor of the president," said a Tyler resident.

So, the wording of the assignment changed. It now says, "...write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term goals."

Despite what parents want, it is up to each school to decide what to do. Winona ISD and Lindale ISD will not show the speech due to technical issues.

"During the inauguration we tried to do a district wide telecast and it shut down our network because of the amount of video streaming and our somewhat lack of technology on each campus or in each classroom," said Stan Surratt, Lindale ISD's superintendent.

Pine Tree ISD will show the speech.

"Certainly the parents will have the option to opt out," said Vickie Echols, with Pine Tree ISD.

Other East Texas schools say their decision is still up in the air, but whatever the decision, it will have people talking.

Here is what we know so far:

  • Arp ISD says, due to technology constraints, not all of their classrooms will be able to watch the speech when it is first broadcast, but they are encouraging student participation and will be providing a link to the speech on their website if students want to watch it later.
  • Bullard ISD says they will not show the speech due to technology problems.
  • Elkhart ISD will not be showing the president's message to students do to technical difficulties.
  • Harmony ISD will not be showing the president's message.
  • Jacksonville ISD says they will record the speech and show it on Wednesday, September 9th to students with parental consent to watch in their government and rotational classes.
  • Lindale ISD says they will not show the speech because of technology problems, but there will be a link on their website if students want to watch it later.  They will also send a DVD home with any student who requests one.
  • Longview ISD will carry the speech, but has sent a letter home to parents saying whether or not their children watch it is optional.
  • Pine Tree ISD says they will show the speech, but parents have the choice to opt out of their children watching it.
  • Troup ISD says they will show the speech to students with signed permission slips from parents.
  • Tyler ISD says they will not show the speech because of technology problems. The district will request that secondary social studies instructors show the speech at an appropriate time in their lessons in the upcoming weeks. Parents who wish to exempt their children from watching the speech when it is presented in class must provide the school with a written request to opt out.
  • Whitehouse ISD says they will not view the live broadcast. They will archive the speech and provide the link on the school's website.
  • Winona ISD says they will not show the speech because of technology problems.  They will have a link on their website to the speech.

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