Harford County Public Schools never planned to censor President Barack Obama’s September 8th address to the nation’s school children, but did not air the speech live so that plans could be made to use the speech appropriately, according to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Roger Plunkett.
While acknowledging that communications from HCPS could have been “worded differently” to better convey the school system’s intentions, Plunkett told The Dagger that there had been a “misunderstanding” and that the President’s address was always going to be shown to all students. But he said the short time frame available for planning meaningful classroom activities, along with technology constraints, led HCPS to use recorded copies of the speech instead. Plunkett said principals were given some discretion as to the exact timing, but all students would view the speech by the close of school Thursday, except in cases where parents sent a note to school to opt their children out.
Plunkett said he first became aware of the President’s address last Wednesday and that some Harford principals had also received emails from outside HCPS about the speech.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that the U.S. Department of Education sent information about the speech directly to principals nationwide, including proposed classroom activities which are also posted on the federal department’s website.
Plunkett said HCPS has since aligned those proposed classroom activities with the local curriculum. The activities were posted on the school system’s website late Tuesday.
Regarding the decision to record the President’s speech rather than air it live, Plunkett said it was considered a curriculum issue, but that he made the decision in consultation with other members of senior staff and with the final approval of Superintendent Robert Tomback.
The school board did not vote on the decision and has not had a meeting since news of the speech broke last week. The next board business meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 14th at 7 p.m. the HCPS Administration Building in Bel Air.