Pulling the plug on president's broadcast
Union Tribune (2009-09-11) Janet Gastil
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Sandra, the fifth-grader in our home, left for school Tuesday morning filled with excitement. She was going to hear her president, Barack Obama, speak directly to her and her classmates.
Sandra returned home at 3, filled with disappointment. She had been left behind, denied the opportunity to hear her president speak to her and her friends. She had missed his important message encouraging her to work hard, study hard and respect her teachers.
What's going on here? If this isn't censorship by the La Mesa/Spring Valley school board, it's the next closest thing. Three members of the board, Penny Halgren, Bob Duff, and Rick Winet, had overturned the superintendent's directive to have all students watch and hear, live on TV, the president's address to the children of America. They did this in a “special meeting” on Labor Day.
As a former member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley Board of Education, I am appalled by this behavior. What makes these three board members put themselves above the president? Do they fear having the children exposed to the president elected by the voters of this country? Were they afraid he might say something the right-wing talk show hosts would not approve? Or was their censorship based on racism?
Sandra was cheated. I felt cheated, too — cheated out of the opportunity to have all our local children hear the president's message about the value of education and hard work.
JANET M. GASTIL
La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Board Member, 1977-90
What message are Halgren, Winet and Duff sending our children? Disrespect the leader of the free world? Education doesn't matter? Intelligence is overrated? Don't work hard? College isn't important?
What a disservice they have done for all 12,500 children throughout La Mesa and Spring Valley. This speaks volumes. They should hang their heads in shame.
This is an embarrassing day for La Mesa and is our legacy now. A school board was allowed to put its politically motivated agenda before the well-being of our school children. What's next, burning books?
I did not vote for President Barack Obama, not do I necessarily support many of his proposals, but I am truly amazed that a simple presidential address to the students of the United States has generated such controversy.
The La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board, trustees of my daughters' education, chose politics over the cultural benefit of my children participating in the address with millions of students across the nation.
Events of national significance, such as the launching of spacecraft, the inauguration of presidents, the swearing-in of supreme court justices, the presentation of Nobel Prizes to Americans, and the times of remembrance for past events, are part of the culture of America. The common observance of such events is what binds us as Americans. These events transcend politics, and should not be subject to the winds of political buffoonery.
The office of the president of the United States should be afforded the trust of America's educators, parents and students when making a specific address to the nation's school children.
When was the last time local school boards called a vote to decide whether or not to let students watch a presidential speech? Seriously. When?
Locally, the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board's 3-2 vote prohibiting students from watching the president's speech was appalling.
When we as a nation can't allow our president to talk to kids, we're in pathetic shape.
Today I am truly embarrassed to be a resident of Spring Valley.
I must give credit to all those parents, teachers, school administrators and school board members for creating such a frenzy over President Obama's back-to-school speech. It was great reverse psychology! What's the best way to get a kid to do something? Tell him he can't do it. I am wondering how confused the schoolchildren were after hearing the president's speech and trying to figure out what all the controversy was about.