Controversy stems over President Obama's speech to students

District said there was little difference in attendance compared to last year

Many students were greeted by President Barack Obama Tuesday morning as they were back in the classrooms from the Labor Day holiday. Despite national and local controversy over the President's broadcast speech, the district didn't see many students kept from schools.

Described as a pep talk to encourage students, Pleasanton Unified School District issued a statement Sept. 4 describing the topics to be discussed and linking to suggested lesson plans that were designed to accompany the speech provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Text of the speech was to be made available to preview on Labor Day through the White House website.

Teachers were not required to show the speech and students with notes from parents could participate in alternate activities.

"I think it's an appropriate thing for the district to show an address from the President to stay in school, set personal goals and demonstrate responsibility," said district spokeswoman Myla Grasso, adding that these ideas are in line with the Community of Character and 40 Assets programs currently in place.

Some parents, such as Bridget Melson, a Pleasanton resident who operates a counseling practice and is a member of the Pleasanton TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, chose to keep her children at home and knew of many concerned parents who chose to not have their children participate.

"I personally feel that especially at the elementary school level, children should be taught, reading, writing, arithmetic, and my son's favorite -- recess," Melson said.

In polling her contacts in Pleasanton, Sunol and Livermore, she said she received emails all day and throughout the night of parents intending to keep children from attending school.

"I think it sends a strong message to the schools that they need to listen to us and if they don't, we will opt out which I know affects the district financially," she said.

The California Republican Assembly, a volunteer organization of conservative Republicans in California, also has recommended that local school boards decline "this highly intrusive federal manipulation of our local school curriculum."

"Matters like this need the local school boards to deliberate in open public session and provide for the ability for our parents to opt in," said Ken Mettler, president of the organization.

"There are questions as to where this falls instructionally, especially with the advent of state standards and the requirement of instructional minutes," he said. "Normally, instructional materials are previewed before they are allowed in the classroom. This broadcast will disrupt the normal timeline of instruction."

Prior to the Labor Day holiday, PUSD had been contacted by about 10 parents via calls and emails expressing concern.

The district statement released Sept. 4 encouraged parents to "know the facts," which state that the district loses more than $30 per student who is absent (excused or unexcused) and that students will not be asked to sign any "pledge" related to the speech.

It is not known how many students were absent from Pleasanton schools because of the speech, but Grasso said overall "attendance was slightly better than the day after Labor Day last year."

Grasso also said the district didn't know how many teachers chose to participate in the live broadcast and/or lesson plans.

Video of the speech is available to view on the White House website:


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Posted by Timothy T
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 10, 2009 at 11:47 am

Apparently, all the hot air on PW was just that. I talked to two principals of elementary schools and they each said they only had 1 student who opted out.

An important reminder that the forums here aren't a very good indicator of the overall temperature of the majority.

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Posted by b
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Maybe Bridget Meslon needs to find a new country.

What a horrible lesson to teach her children: we disagree with this man's politics, so we shouldn't listen to him. Why not use it as an opportunity to teach her children why she holds her beliefs? That it is OK to disagree? That we can talk through our disagreements in a civil manner, without proverbally stomping out of the room in protest? That we honor the Presidency as the pride of our great democracy, and respect him as our leader, regardless of whether we agree with his politics?

No wonder her kid's favorite subject is recess!

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Posted by b
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I hope Bridget Meslon and her friends reimbursed our terrific, budget-strapped school district for the money they lost as the result of their little stunt.

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Posted by Russell
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Sep 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm

It did seem like a lot of grandstanding to me. I don't see what people were afraid of. Looks like the president gave a good speech. Now if he could really get bi-partisan health care reform...

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Posted by dublinmike
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Bridget Meslon has a right to her opinion, which I totally disagree with.

Nothing wrong with Pres. Obama's speech as well as Pres. GHW Bush's in 1990.

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Posted by b
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Of course Bridget MELSON (it is not spelled correctly in the story) is entitled to her opinion, as we all are. I'm just feeling sorry for her kids, who are still at recess. Maybe they could have used a dose of President Obama's education pep talk. I also hope Bridget Melson's counseling clients like her politics, because this story's going to be in her Google results for awhile.

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Posted by Joseph
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 10, 2009 at 5:30 pm

So she is using her children as pawns in an attempt to threaten the district with decreased revenue?

"We will opt out which I know affects the district financially"

Yeah, you don't need to sacrifice your children's education in order to make a point.

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Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Julie is a registered user.

I'm sorry, what makes Ms. Melson think that the public school system "must listen to her"? I'd never seen parents like this until I moved to Pleasanton. This is a public school run with government funds. It's not a "Parent Co-op" with a "Parent Board of Directors" who has say over every little thing. If you want such complete control consider home schooling. I think this "black mail", "punishment" based behavior is disgusting. She had the opportunity to "opt out" without screwing the district out of their money. Talk about biting off your nose to spite your face!

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Posted by Over reacting
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Sep 10, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Ihave to say that holding your child back from a full day of school rather than hear a 26 minute presidential pep talk is a net loss for the child. It seems like quite an overreaction to a non political pep talk.

Finding things we all can agree on such as keeping kids in school and working hard on assignments is part of the democratic process. This was lost somehow on a few parents.

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Posted by Global Watcher, Arizona
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Keeping your kids from school with such a blatant excuse "teaches" the wrong lesson to them. Skip school if you have a "good" reason. That is preposterous!

Like this comment
Posted by Very Concerned Parent
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Sep 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm


"I'd never seen parents like this until I moved to Pleasanton"

I have lived in many cities and towns and have not come across the polarity or vile immature nature of many P-Town parents since either.

For example, the Weekly has 4 other area and forums. The citizens of all these town have seemed to be able to communicate hot button issues much more civilly than here in Pleasanton.

Also of notice as far as the greater bay and East bay area's, P-Town has the largest number of conservatives.

A while back prior to the election, during and after Obama was elected President, these radical far right conservatives were a minority by far. These days with Hannity, Rush, Pailin, Beck, and others, the NORM in conservatism is EXTREME!

The everyday deceit, fatalist rants, hatred and vile Anti American nature is the norm now.

These folks are feeding into the type of extremism that continues to divide Afghanistan and Iraq. For so long, main stream America condemned
the citizens of these Countries as having such a barbaric radical divide and we are now no better.

We as a Country have fed into the same hostility that we have so much despised and went to war for.

I know plenty of parents that have just about had enough of the attitude and exremism here in Pleasanton. This town has gone so far down hill.

Like this comment
Posted by Arroyo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 7:00 am

Comments are being regulated by the Pleasanton Weakly(!) to slant this discussion.

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Posted by Susan
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 8:28 am

I was pleased my daughter wanted to discuss her feelings about the speech. It was played during her high school class. She noted her teacher repeatedly applauded and chimed in with support for many of the president's words. She was so exuberant she wanted to play the speech twice.

I asked my daughter what her feelings were regarding the speech. She wasn't impressed and her actual words may be considered irreverent, unless you have had the parenting a teenager experience.

Unfortunately, the teacher didn't open the discussion to opinions other than her own and President Obama. I feel the opportunity for debate was missed. The views of the students (at least in this class) were not considered or valued.

Apparently, the speech was very effective. The lunch table was a fierce event. Seven of the eight students were soundly dissappointed in the president and his speech. The hold out was doing it for attention, as he didn't have any relevent facts to share, according to my daughter.

So, yeah! I am happy to have a free thinking teenager, able to see through the polical agenda of the teacher and the other influences. I worry for the younger minds forced to sit in their seats and soak up the same.

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Posted by hd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 8:30 am

I agree with Julie! Parents in pleasanton feel so much more entitled than those elsewhere. Everyone here is entitled to their beliefs, however people here feel free to denigrate and criticize those who believe differently than they do. It's especially heated with regard to politics and these parents teach their kids indirectly to completely disregard/disrespect others' beliefs.

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Posted by Look!
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 11, 2009 at 8:44 am

Look! the bottom line here is that the reason many do not want their kids to hear him speak is because they do not trust him and consider him to be a "liar".

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Posted by RBA
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Sep 11, 2009 at 9:16 am

In my opinion, it is un-American and narrow-minded to prevent your child from watching/listening to the American president, especially when all he was doing was encouraging students to do well in school.

Furthermore, our schools are in such dire straights right now with all the budget cuts, it is selfish to keep your child home (when other alternatives were offered) and deprive schools of the daily income from the state.

I was disappointed that neither of my daughters were given the opportunity to watch Obama at school. (Harvest Park and Amador)

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Posted by CT
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 9:35 am

The title of the article makes no sense:

"attendance was slightly better than the day after Labor Day last year."

Seems there is no controversy at all- just one or two ignorant people. That's not controversy or news...

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

I would have liked for my child to watch the speech (a matter of personal preference). But in my child's school, the teacher did not show it and instead left it up to each student to watch it at home if they wanted. I respect the teacher's decision although I would have liked my child to watch the speech live. We watched it at home, and I did not find anything wrong with the speech, it was just a speech from our president, asking kids to do well in school and work hard.

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Posted by Cindy
a resident of Danbury Park
on Sep 11, 2009 at 10:11 am

I'm a grandparent with 2 teenage grandchildren. I think it's great that Obama spoke to the kids. I feel that if parents were more involved with bringing up their kids and less involved with giving them "Tools of Distraction" like WiFi, playstations, or the like, Obama wouldn't have to take his valuable time wasting on those who DON'T DO THEIR JOBS!

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Posted by Not as stunned today
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2009 at 10:15 am

I am so happy to read the comments today from well-rounded and intelligent individuals, as opposed to the comments I was reading earlier this week. I was mortified by what I was reading from adults who totally bashed the speech and our country's leader. I feel truly sorry for the children of these narrow-minded parents who inflict their beliefs so viciously and keep their children from hearing a man who only wants the best for them. What a wonderful opportunity for our future adults to receive such positive encouragement they probably are not getting at home. Thank you for giving me hope that there are others in this area who truly care about our children doing well in school!! Wow, what a concept!

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Posted by Look
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 11, 2009 at 10:15 am

Ha ha what a hoot!

I guess what everyone is missing is that in many circles Obama is not exactly adored like with the libs and many would rather have almost anyone speak with their kids other than Obama. I wonder if it was carried at his kids private schools in DC? I guess the positive is that as long as he is all tied up with wrecking our schools and healthcare he cannot continue to inflict damage on the economy.

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Posted by "Look" responder
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 10:27 am

"Look," you're missing the point. This isn't about Obama's politics and whether or not you like them, it is about the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES delivering an inspirational speech to our children. President BUSH was a bumbling idiot, but I would've loved it if he'd taken the time to address our children like this. It is an honor to live in the United States and have the _ability_ to elect a President every 4 years. Regardless of who is in office and whether or not you like them, a Presidential speech is always a terrific opportunity for a civics lesson.

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Posted by American by choice
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 11, 2009 at 11:39 am

Just imagine! President Obama, who has hard decisions to make 24/7 took the time to encourage and instill in our young people that hard work and staying in school pays off and if you so, you can reach any goal you set for yourself. If only ONE child remembers this when "things get tough" we have won. There are always children who gets zero encouragement from parents. I hope the President repeats this every new school year.

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Posted by teacher
a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I'm a teacher in Pleasanton, and I showed the video. It was very inspirational to both my students and me. I refrained from making any comments during the speech, and allowed for a brief discussion afterward. In this particular class, all the students are struggling readers. Each one said that the President's speech inspired them to work harder, and have goals for themselves. They liked the fact that it came at the beginning of the year, where they have a clean slate. One boy told me he felt 'hopeful' about this new school year. Hard to argue with that, isn't it?

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Posted by No Problem
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Again, I am not a supporter of the President; but again...I think the whole matter was silly. My 12 year old saw the speech at PMS and he did not come home a little commie.

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Posted by Obvious
a resident of Civic Square
on Sep 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment & same poster using multiple names]

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Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Julie is a registered user.

Susan, I think it's a shame your child's teacher only wanted to share her own views. I agree that the student's perceptions were more important and should have been valued. I supported the speech, but definitely felt the *children* should be the ones expressing what they thought about it.

"Look Responder" - I feel the EXACT same way as you. I do not do background checks on all of my children's teachers. Maybe I would disagree with some of their habits/past behavior/current morals/etc. The speech should not have been specifically about Obama, but rather the PRESIDENT of the U.S. addressing school children. I agree - Bush's "background check" wouldn't come out any better than Obama's - but hey, I'd have been fine with him talking to my kids about staying in school. Would I have objected to the ex-"almost alcoholic"/former DUI driver talking to my kids about not drinking on grounds of hypocrisy? Nope, again, I'd have been fine with that.

Like this comment
Posted by realist
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 13, 2009 at 7:54 pm

impeach Obama!

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Posted by Huh
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2009 at 9:34 pm

On what grounds? Calling for initiating an impeachment procedure against a (standing)/sitting president of the United States of America implies that he has broken the law of the land somehow?

Please specify.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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