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Alexandria schools feel pressure over Obama school speech

ALEXANDRIA -- Should schools show a back-to-school address by President Barack Obama this coming Tuesday?

Some parents and groups are pressuring schools not to show the televised live address, claiming that political agendas should be kept out of public classrooms.

According to U.S. Secretary of Education, Obama's speech won't be political. He said it "will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning."

Nevertheless, the prospect of schools airing the broadcast isn't sitting well with everyone.

"Some parents are calling their superintendent and saying they're not going to have their kids go to school [Tuesday]," said Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher at a news conference on Thursday.

He urged superintendents to show the broadcast for its educational merits, noting that education of students shouldn't become a "political pawn" for those who oppose Obama's policies.

Alexandria School District 206 has received "a few calls" from parents who don't want their children to hear the address in school, according to Superintendent Terry Quist. A few of the callers were emotional, he said.

District 206 is not requiring its teachers to show the speech live in their classrooms, Quist said.

"If teachers want to tape it and use it later if it fits in with a lesson or their daily studies, they can," Quist said.

District 206 won't show the speech in a large group setting, mainly because of the timing of it. It's supposed to air around 11 a.m., the same time that many students are going to lunch, Quist said. Showing the speech on a very busy first day of school would also be difficult, he added.

From his understanding, Quist said the address will focus on working hard, studying and being successful in school - the same type of message that District 206 has been giving students in orientations and open houses in preparation for the new school year.

The U.S. Department of Education is calling the address a "historic moment." It's the first time an American president will speak directly, live, to students about succeeding in school.

Obama's address will be telecast at 11 a.m. on the White House website and on C-SPAN.

Some schools in the nation are banning the speech.

It's also caused some fallout among U.S. lawmakers. U.S. Representative John Kline, R-Minnesota, sent a letter requesting a preview of the address so parents can see what it will be about. He compared it to allowing parents to view a textbook before it is used or to consider the plans of an upcoming field trip.

White House sources have been quoted as saying that Obama's speech will not be about policy but will focus on the value of education and the importance of staying in school.

The White House has indicated that it would release the text of the speech on Monday.