Schools in Some Southern States Are Giving Parents an 'Opt-Out' for Children Not to Hear Obama's Address to Students
President Obama is scheduled to give a nation-wide speech to schoolchildren on their first day back from summer vacation on September 7. The speech is billed as a national address to the students of America, however, conservatives have reacted by pressuring school districts to refrain from broadcasting the speech.
In response, schools in several southern states are giving parents an “opt-out” option for their children.
In Simpsonville, South Caroline, for example, the Bells Crossing Elementary school principal issued robocalls to parents telling them that letters would be sent home for them to sign if they did not want their children to watch the President’s speech.
An outraged parent, Chuck Hamilton, contacted Raw Story to complain about what he believes is a racist response to a African American president. “It is obvious to me that had this been Bush, or any other white Republican, the phone call and letter home would not have happened,” Hamilton wrote in an email.
But Bells Crossing Elementary School is not alone in its reaction to the President’s upcoming speech.
A call to the Greenville Country School Board confirmed that all schools in that district are receiving calls from their own principals and having letters sent home.
Susan Richards, a spokesperson for the Greenville Country School Board declined to answer questions as to why the board felt it necessary to take these measures. “You will have to speak to the Director of Communications, but he is not available right now.” A message was left for the Director, who has not responded.
Teacher at school embarrassed to hand out op-out materials
In an email exchange acquired by Raw Story, Mrs. Hamilton wrote to her child’s fifth grade teacher to express concern over the school’s actions. The Hamiltons have requested that the teacher’s information be kept private.
In response, the teacher expressed “embarrassment” over the way the whole matter has been handled:”
I wholeheartedly agree with you. In fact, I was and still am embarrassed to pass out those notes or that it was even necessary to do so. Even if I didn’t agree with the policies of the leader of our country - his message isn’t intended to “brainwash the youth of America” (being TOTALLY sarcastic….) but meant for a positive message in which I am guessing the speech he is going to give is similar to the one he gave his own children at the beginning of the school year.
Feel free to rant…..I have rants of my own~!
Even as teachers and parents express outrage at the school board’s response to the President’s speech, more documented cases are emerging across the country.
In North Carolina, the Dare County School Board is taking similar measures. Another concerned parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted Raw Story about a newsletter item that was sent out and posted on the board’s web site:
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, on Tuesday, September 8, at 12 noon, President Barack Obama will deliver a national address to encourage students to set high academic goals and to do their best to succeed in school.
Any parent who wishes for his/her children not to participate may “opt out” by contacting the school(s) where the children are enrolled. Principals will be contacting parents by various means, such as with forms, electronic mail, websites, or via an announcement on the educational television station. If parents have any questions, they should call the school(s) where the children attend.
The Dare County School Board did not return calls for comment.
ABC News also reported that similar school actions are being taken in six states. According to Jake Tapper, “districts in Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota are even refusing to show the president’s address.”
Talking Points Behind School Reactions?
It is unclear at this point if the reaction from conservatives is nothing more than a political effort by the party to fire up the base against the President or if there is genuine concern from parents, thereby forcing the schools to in turn respond.
But there is plenty of stoking by Conservative pundits and local chapters of the GOP, with eerily similar talking points, claiming that Obama is enacting some sort of socialist indoctrination program.
Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, for example, wrote in a September 1 column on her blog: “Will Obama be able to resist issuing a call to youth arms to marshal help in passing his legislative agenda?”
A blog called GOP Counter Culture pushed for a boycott, asking conservatives to call school boards across the country.
“Tell the school no thanks, your child will PASS. I heard about this first on Glenn Beck’s radio program today,” the blog stated. “And on Michelle Malkin’s website, a board member writes that the DoE usurped them and went straight to the principals on this.”
WorldNetDaily, a right-wing publication, reported on various bloggers and comments from conservative parents who are attempting to create a Keep Your Child at Home Day, citing as an example a comment from the right-wing Free Republic forum.
“I am not going to compare President Obama to Hitler. We’ll leave that to others and you can form your own opinions about them and their analogies. … However, we can learn a lot from the spread of propaganda in Europe that led to Hitler’s power. A key ingredient in that spread of propaganda was through the youth,” wrote a blogger at the AmericanElephant.com blog, where the subject of the day was a national “Keep-Your-Child-at-Home-Day.
CBS News spoke with Jim Greer, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party who used almost identical language in describing Obama’s scheduled speech:
“The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power,” Greer told the network.
Fox News pundits, like Glenn Beck, are also front and center, using the same terminology to label the Obama’s back to school speech as “indoctrination.”
Media Matters for America, a media watchdog organization has documented additional claims from the right that Obama’s speech is seeking to indoctrinate Americas youth and references to Hitler and Socialism, all very similar.
Parent called ‘n*gger loving communist’ for defending Obama speech in paper
After complaints about the plan to have students’ lesson plans include an assignment on “how to help” the president surfaced — the White House did reverse course on Thursday and say they’ll rewrite the primer.
Among the ideas suggested for pre-K to 6th grade students was to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.”
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told Fox News that new language will make “lesson plans clearer,” and that a planned Obama speech to students “is not a policy speech, but is intended to encourage kids to work hard and commit to school.”
MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro wrote, “Since the White House has said the text of the speech will be available for 24 hours before he delivers it and since they altered the lesson plan language, why is this still a controversy? The ability of the conservative media machine to generate a controversy for this White House is amazing. In fact, this is an example of a story that percolates where it becomes harder and harder for some to claim there’s some knee-jerk liberal media bias. (Does anyone remember these kinds of controversies in the summer of 2001?) The ability of some conservatives to create media firestorms is still much greater than liberals these days.”
RAW STORY was unable to confirm if any school boards offered “opt outs” for speeches by Republican Presidents, but race could be a factor on some level.
A parent who was quoted in a local newspaper later wrote on Twitter that she received an anonymous phone call which used the n-word to attack her.
“It seems like there’s a concerted effort to undermine President Obama by people on the right, and I think this is part of that,” Teresa Kopec told South Carolina’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “I disagreed with George W. Bush for most of his presidency, but I never disparaged him in front of the kids or told them not to respect the office. By dragging children into this as pawns, and threatening to take them out of school … That just sends a terrible message to our youth.”
Kopec later Tweeted, “I just got anonymous phone call calling me a ‘n*gger loving communist’ for giving pro-Obama statement to local paper.”