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On Sept. 28, President Barak Obama will speak to students all over the country during his third annual President’s Back to School Speech, an annual address broadcasted to students on the importance of education.

To curb any backlash that could arise from having students watch or participate in any classroom learning activities regarding Obama’s Back to School speech, Gateway School District has given parents/guardians the option of having their children not participate. In a letter sent home, parents were given until Sept. 23 to notify teachers of their wish to have their child or children opt out from listening to the speech.

While the New Pittsburgh Courier received a copy of and a complaint about the letter and the district’s actions, Cara Zanella, Gateway’s director of communications, said sending home a letter and giving parents the option is standard practice when politics are involved and is something that has been done since Obama started the annual speech. She added that this did not stem from any prior complaints. She wasn’t there during the Bush administration so she didn’t know if it occurred before Obama. “The district tries to stay neutral,” she said.

According to the letter, students whose parents choose to have them not participate in the broadcast or discussion will be given supervised alternative learning activities outside of the classrooms where the speech will be broadcasted.

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