by Susan O’Neill
President Obama addressed students in many schools across the country on Tuesday, but some schools opted not to show the speech, including those in the Kaneland School District.
Citing the lack of adequate technology to broadcast the speech live to all students at the same time, Kaneland administrators decided against a general showing of the speech, but said they told teachers they could show the speech in specific situations where it fit in with certain curriculum topics.
â€œThe Kaneland School District will not be broadcasting the speech live, primarily because, similar to many school districts, Kaneland does not have the consistent technological capability across all schools to broadcast the speech to all students simultaneously via television or internet or any combination thereof,â€ the district announced Friday in a press release on its website.
Associate Superintendent Jeff Schuler said that as a general practice, the schools do not air messages to the students where they do not have a chance to pre-screen them first.
In the e-mail the district sent to parents, he said that once the administration hears the speech, it may be â€œvery appropriate for sharing with our students, either partially or in its entirety.â€
Schuler said the administration had received contacts from a number of parents about the speech, who expressed a fear that the message could be inappropriate.
â€œSome parents believe it’s part of a political agenda,â€ Schuler said.
According to Schuler, although they also received contacts from some parents who wanted the speech aired to students, the calls and e-mails were more heavily weighted against it.
Schuler said the administration’s decision was not based on input from parents or others who contacted them.
â€œIt’s what we considered to be sound educational practices,â€ he said.
Kaneland John Shields Elementary School principal Shelley Hueber said that in addition to the technology limitations of the district, they decided that at the elementary grade level, the speech did not have the relevance to the curriculum to warrant showing it to the students.
Hueber said she had also received calls and e-mails from parents voicing their opposition to showing the speech, some of them who were â€œvery, very strongly against it.â€
â€œSome parents said they did not want their children exposed to any political propaganda, and that they would take their child out of school if we showed it,â€ she said.
Diane Baker, who has a daughter who is a senior in high school, said she had mixed feelings about showing the speech to the students. Although she was not sure exactly what the president was going to say, she said she liked having her daughter informed.
â€œShe’s tired of hearing it (how important education is) from me,â€ she said. â€œMaybe it’s good for her to hear it from someone else.â€
Parent Lori McCaffrey said she felt the technology issues might have been the administration’s way of gracefully side-stepping the issue of some of the parents’ concerns.
â€œI don’t know what pressure they’ve gotten in the last few days. It makes me sad,â€ she said. â€œWe’re so paranoid that we’re afraid to listen to the president. I don’t understand what they thought he was going to say.â€
Anne Gorenz’ children are in sixth and eighth grades. Gorenz said she thought the school had more important issues to worry about, such as the dress code, foul language and respect for their elders.
School Board President Lisa Wiet said she preferred not to comment in her role as a member of the board. She said the board was not involved in the decision.
â€œIt’s not my call,â€ she said.
She said that as a parent, she thinks it is a message the students need to hear at some point.
â€œIt’s very much in keeping with the district’s mission,â€ she said. â€œIt’s a very positive message.â€
Key points of president’s speech
â€¢ Stay in school
â€¢ Study hard
â€¢ Your education is your
â€¢ Set your own goals for
your education and work hard
to meet them
â€¢ Don’t let your failures define
you; let them teach you
â€¢ The country needs you
to solve our most difficult
â€¢ Each of you has something
you’re good at and that you
have to offer; your
responsibility is to find
out what that is through
â€¢ Never give up on yourself