Anchorage schools offering 'opt out' for Obama's speech

Posted: Sunday, September 06, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau has told teachers they can show President Barack Obama's televised speech Tuesday to students, but parents can decide to have their children opt out.

Comeau told The Anchorage Daily News she was caught off guard by some of the comments she has heard from parents concerned about Obama bringing politics into the classroom.

Just as with any school activities, Comeau said Anchorage parents can pull their kids from participating. Because a number of parents are threatening to keep their kids home, she said schools will set up alternative activities for those children, such as going to the library.

The Department of Education says the speech is meant to encourage kids to stay in school, challenge kids to work hard and set educational goals.

Comeau said she was offended by some comments about the speech.

One e-mail said, "I believe we pay taxes for the schools to teach our kids educational basics. I do NOT want any politician of any party giving speeches in our schools."

Another e-mail said Obama was fulfilling an agenda to indoctrinate children. It said: "As Adolf Hitler began to 'educate' the youth ... he created a generation of youth who were loyal to not only the fascist state but to him personally."

Comeau considers the speech nonpartisan.

"It's an opportunity for our young people to hear from people they hear about, read about in the paper, see on TV, and so forth ... about the value of staying in school," she said.

Last week, Gov. Sean Parnell visited East High School with a similar message to stay in school, she said.

Mat-Su school district spokeswoman Catherine Esary said the district was leaving it up to teachers to decide to watch it or not.

Alaska Department of Education spokesman Eric Fry said the state agency is also leaving it up to districts.

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