Some parents decry speech ‘censorship’

By: Julie Eng Journal Correspondent
-A +A
Parents of students in the Placer Hills Union School District think the president is being censored. President Obama requested his televised speech to schoolchildren in Washington D.C. be broadcast on Tuesday in schools across the nation. In response to this news, area parents voiced their concerns to Auburn-area school districts. Some felt that the president would try to promote his political views, which led to postponed and selective airings of the speech. Several parents with children at Sierra Hills Elementary School were upset that they were given no indication of the school district’s plans for showing the address to students prior to its live airing. Hannah Schwartz, a former high school social sciences teacher and mother of two children who attend Sierra Hills, heard from her kids after school that they didn’t watch the speech. “I don’t know how you can prepare kids to be part of a society if you don’t let them be a part of it,” Schwartz said on Tuesday. “They (students) have to have a connection, and for some of these kids watching their own president can be that connection. Our country is only as strong as our educated citizens.” Molly Wollff, also a mother of two Sierra Hills students, was told by a district official that her children would only see selected portions of the speech. “It sounds like this is censorship,” Wollff said. “It sounds to me like school policy is being set by a loud-mouthed anti-government group, and he (superintendent Fred Adam) is not doing anything to assuage my concerns.” Adam, superintendent of the Placer Hills Union School District, said on Tuesday that he’d reviewed the speech that morning and made his recommendations. Adam said that as he had no knowledge of the speech’s content on Friday, he decided to wait until he’d read the speech to determine how teachers might incorporate it into lesson plans at different levels. After viewing the speech, he said he found it very appropriate for students in fifth through eighth grades, especially in history and social studies classes. For children in kindergarten through fourth grade, Adam said he advised teachers to show one or two clips and develop questions for discussion, as he found some of the vocabulary and content too advanced for younger grade levels. He also expressed concern that the length of the speech would present difficulties for young children. However, he stressed that it is up to teachers to decide how much of the speech they will use, and when they will be able to integrate it into their lesson plans. When asked why the district hadn’t notified parents of its plans earlier, Adam said they were forced to address complaints and concerns last Thursday, and at that time he made the decision not to air the speech for students without first previewing it. Though he was aware of the speech’s early release, Adam said he spent the holiday with his family, and chose to wait to read it. The Journal was unable to reach Ella Dobrec, the Sierra Hills Elementary School principal, for comment. Steve Schaumleffel, principal of Weimar Hills Middle School, said the school will adhere to district policy, letting teachers determine their use of the president’s speech in the classroom.