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Posted September 9, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Area schools let teachers choose what to do in class

By M.K. Luther -- mkluther@nvdaily.com

Area public schools took an individualized approach and emphasized the importance of parental choice when deciding whether to broadcast President Obama's national address to pupils on Tuesday.

Speaking from Wakefield High School in Arlington, the president implored the nation's students to focus on the value of their education.

The text of the speech was released Monday on the White House Web site for preview, along with supplemental materials provided for classroom use prior to and following the speech.

Frederick County Public Schools chose not to provide real-time viewing of the address so that teachers could review the speech and then make the decision on whether to incorporate the materials into classroom lessons.

"Anything that is used in our classrooms has to fit in with our instructional priorities," said Steve Edwards, coordinator of public policy and information.

Edwards said that if a teacher chooses to use the speech at a later date, parents would be notified and presented with the option of allowing a pupil to participate in another activity or lesson.

"We felt that our position was one that did its best to respect the views of all people," Edwards said.

Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Rick Leonard said the city school division followed the Department of Education's established guidelines for broadcasting the address and permitted individual schools, principals and teachers to ultimately make the decision.

The school day schedule, especially for high school students, combined with a particular classroom curriculum, could dictate the final choice, Leonard said.

"It was at [the teachers'] discretion relative to the lessons they were teaching that day," Leonard said.

Winchester elementary schools did offer some real-time viewing of the address, as well as delayed or edited versions.

"When you are looking at a group of kindergarten students, you might not want to show the whole speech," Leonard said.

Leonard said all parents had the opportunity to contact teachers or school staff if they did not want their child exposed to the speech in school.

As of Friday, Warren County elementary schools planned to review the broadcast and then determine whether to show the speech to pupils, while the county's two high schools allowed individual teachers to make the decision.

Warren County Middle School intended to air the broadcast, and sent a letter home to parents last week allowing students to opt out of viewing the president's address, according to the superintendent's office.

Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Keith Rowland said the county school division would view the speech separately and then make a decision as to whether the classes would view it.

Staff writer Preston Knight contributed to this article.

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