Re- 1’s decision not to broadcast Obama’s speech live was a cop-out
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The recent decision to ban the live airing of President Obama’s speech to students by the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 was disturbing and very disappointing.
The uproar concerning the speech prior to the Labor Day weekend was in itself much ado about nothing.
But the school district’s decision was one of haste and narrow-mindedness.
Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said that her decision was made because the speech had become such a “political hot button” issue, and that any address to students would need to be pre-approved.
At Wednesday’s school district board meeting, Haptonstall said she “tried to come down middle of the road” on the issue.
It was reported that 10-15 calls from parents concerned that Obama’s speech would be too political came into the district office, plus some calls to individual schools.
As the head of the school district, Haptonstall must realize that she has to make difficult decisions, and middle of the road is not necessarily a decision – it’s a cop-out.
As a result of her “middle of the road” philosophy, the controversy and criticism that’s pummeled the school district has been swift and justified.
Haptonstall made her decision on Thursday of last week.
What’s most disappointing is that the president released a copy of the speech, so all interested parties could evaluate it.
Even if it was the Labor Day weekend, Haptonstall should have re-evaluated and reversed her decision after reading the transcript.
Seeing the president’s speech in advance, it was clear that his message was not political, rather a simple straightforward urging to students to tackle their education seriously.
We must commend the neighboring Garfield School District Re-2’s decision to allow the speech by giving some teachers the flexibility to incorporate the speech into the day’s learning plan. Teachers who headed relevant classes like social studies and history were given this option.
A simple, solid solution. It’s also a glaring example of how unsettling Haptonstall’s decision was.
The Re-1 school district has now decided to encourage teachers to show a taped version of President Obama’s speech, and parents who still have concerns can opt out.
This is a good decision, but the damage of Haptonstall’s initial decision will resonate for years.
School board member Bill Lamont proposed that the school district create an opt-out policy for when these types of situations come up again. We agree.
But for now, the school district will be the center of the controversy, which is ironic because it seems like Haptonstall’s decision was made in hopes of avoiding controversy.
We hope that this fiasco will be turned into a learning opportunity for the school district. They need to have a policy in place, they need to be ready and willing to re-evaluate a decision before it’s too late. And mostly, they need to learn from this mistake and not let it happen again.
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