MOULTRIE — President Barack Obama will address school children throughout the United States Tuesday, but in Colquitt County — and some other districts across the nation — the speech will not be required viewing.

The U.S. Department of Education said the president’s message will focus on the importance of education and encouraging children to strive to do well in school, according to a statement from Colquitt County Schools Superintendent Leonard McCoy. The 15- to 20-minute address will be shown live on the White House Web site and on C-SPAN at noon EDT, according to an AP story about the event.

“Colquitt County Schools recognizes that this is an historic event because it is the first time a president has addressed the nation’s school children [in this manner],” McCoy said. “While we have asked the principals to make the president’s address available for viewing, students will not be required to view the address nor will they be penalized if they choose not to participate.”

Districts in Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students, the AP said, and others were still thinking it over Thursday.

McCoy said Colquitt County teachers have been told to consider the speech as a learning opportunity if it applies to what they’re doing in the classroom. It’s up to each teacher if a class will see the telecast.

“Colquitt County School System is focused on teaching a rigorous curriculum based on the Georgia Performance Standards that is designed to prepare students to be successful and achieve their personal and educational goals,” he said. “We understand that daily instructional time is very precious to each teacher. Therefore, classroom viewing of the president’s address will not be required. If the address fits into instructional plans, teachers may participate in the event in their classroom.”

McCoy said an alternative setting will be available for students whose parents object to the telecast, and principals have been asked to make the address available for students and teachers to watch during non-instructional time.

Nationally, the plan to address the “captive audience” of school children has drawn criticism, especially from conservatives who have expressed concerns Obama will use the speech for political purposes. Others have voiced concerns about lesson plan suggestions from the U.S. Department of Education that accompanied notification of the speech.

Reacting to conservative criticism, the White House announced plans to release the text of the speech online Monday, the AP said.

McCoy said Thursday afternoon the Central Office had received three calls about the speech, and he knew of three schools that had received at least one call each.

Carolyn Roberts, one of two people who called The Observer Thursday about the speech, said the president has more important things to do than give a speech to children.

“Politics have no place in our children’s [education],” Roberts said, “especially pre-K.”

The speech is intended be shown to students from prekindergarten up, according to Department of Education information.

Roberts said she was upset because the school system, which knew of the speech as early as Aug. 25, did not inform the parents.

“Parents should have a say-so,” she said.

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