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Dallas-Fort Worth schools have varying plans for Obama's speech

As Tarrant County schools prepare to broadcast President Barack Obama's back-to-school remarks to students Tuesday, Arlington school district officials are hoping for a smooth production.

Last year, Arlington officials were criticized after deciding against airing Obama's live broadcast.

Officials said they didn't want to interfere with classroom instruction, but critics accused the district of bowing to political pressure. The dispute intensified when Obama supporters learned that the district had planned to send about 600 fifth-graders on a field trip to Cowboys Stadium two weeks later, where former President George W. Bush was the keynote speaker for the kickoff of a Super Bowl-related community service project.

Superintendent Jerry McCullough canceled the field trip to defuse the matter.

"I think it was unjust," school board President Gloria Peña said of the criticism. "The media took it and ran. We were not the only school that did that."

This year, the district plans to broadcast the speech live to all schools.

Principals will work out the details of when and where students will watch it, district spokeswoman Amy Casas said.

Because it will be shown at noon, some students might not see it live.

Parents who don't want their children to watch the speech can opt out by notifying their school in writing, including by e-mail.

"Regardless what anybody's views are, it's a positive for our students to hear the president of the United States, especially when he's conveying a positive and uplifting message for our students," Casas said.

Here's a look at how other districts are handling the speech:

Aledo

District officials say they're making no special plans regarding the speech.

"Our school day on Tuesday will just be a regular school day," district spokeswoman June Lancarte said. "If a teacher in a particular classroom wants to show it, they can. If parents learn that one of their children's teachers is showing it, they can have their child removed from the classroom during the speech."

Birdville

The district will record the speech and make it available to teachers to show later, likely during social studies lessons, spokesman Mark Thomas said. It will also be posted on the district website.

"With it happening at noon, that is a real logistical issue for 23,000 students," Thomas said.

Burleson

Officials will record the speech and make it available to all students Wednesday, spokesman Phil Beckman said.

"At the secondary level, we believe it is most appropriate for these viewings to take place in social studies classes," Beckman said. "At the elementary level, we believe the students can view the speech in organized large-group sessions designed to fit the needs of each grade level."

Parents may opt not to have their children view the speech.

Carroll

Students in grades five through 12 will watch the speech live if they have history or social studies then. The district will record it for other history and social studies teachers to use, spokeswoman Julie Thannum said.

Parents can opt their children out by submitting a written note. Or parents can check their children out of school for one to two hours without penalty if they want to watch the speech live together. That also requires a note.

Crowley

Officials will record the speech and make it available at every school, according to an announcement on the district website.

Parents will have the option to exempt their children.

Eagle Mountain-Saginaw

The district is giving discretion to individual schools and teachers to determine whether the "speech is in alignment with classroom instruction and goals."

Parents can exempt their children by filling out a permission letter posted on the district's website by Monday.

Everman

Officials will record the speech and make it available on the district website. They will also make videos of the speech available in school libraries.

Parents may decline to have their children view the speech.

Fort Worth

Principals will decide how to show the speech at each school, district spokesman Clint Bond said.

It will be available for live streaming at all schools and will be posted on the district website as well.

Parents who do not want their children to watch the speech can contact the school, officials said.

Grapevine-Colleyville

Teachers will decide whether to use the speech as an instructional resource appropriate to grade level and content, officials said. An archived copy will be available for teachers to use.

District officials created materials specific to elementary, middle and high school levels that teachers may use to discuss the speech in class, officials said.

Parents may submit a written request to excuse their child from the speech.

Hurst-Euless-Bedford

The district will not show the speech live but will make it available as a podcast on its website for social studies teachers to use.

Parents who do not want their children to watch the podcast should notify the principal.

Keller

The district is making the speech available to all students, and officials at individual schools will determine their own viewing plans.

Parents can request that their children not view the speech. Those students will go to an alternative location.

Mansfield

The district is letting parents decide whether their children will watch the speech. Schools will show it live to students whose parents filled out a permission slip by Friday.

Students who did not bring a signed slip will not be allowed to view the speech live, officials said. Students who view the speech off campus will be given an excused absence and be allowed to make up any missed work.

Northwest

Officials at individual schools will determine their own plans on showing the speech, whether live or taped.

Parents can request that their children not view it.

"If you want your child to opt out, you just have to contact the school," district spokeswoman Lesley Weaver said.

Staff writers Eva-Marie Ayala, Jessamy Brown, Sandra Engelland, Shirley Jinkins, Nancy Matocha and Patrick M. Walker contributed to this report.

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