Obama’s back-to-schools message deemed too political for Florida school district

President Obama will give a back-to-school speech Wednesday that won’t push his jobs plan, chide obstinate congressional Republicans or raise money for his re-election campaign.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t become political.

Though the president might not have intended for his message to be politicized, at least one school district in a key electoral swing state has apparently judged it so.

Obama’s remarks at 1:30 p.m. at D.C.’s Benjamin Banneker High School will be broadcast live in classrooms across the nation. But the Collier County, Fla., school system has declared it a blackout for its 43,000 students — at least for Wednesday.

“As we did last year, the District will not show it live, but give teachers the option of watching it with their students at a later date of their choice,” the school system said in a statement. “Teachers who find that the message fits in with their curriculum may decide to show the message as part of a classroom lesson. The District believes that tying the President’s message to the curriculum, such as Social Studies, and presenting it as a curricular-related resource activity, will make the message more meaningful to students.”

The Collier district has not shown Obama’s back-to-schools address live in any of the three years he has given it. Other large Florida school districts, including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade, are scheduled to broadcast the address live in its classrooms.

“In the past, this event was somewhat controversial,” Beth Thompson, Collier’s chief instructional officer, told the Naples Daily News. “Parents called-in and said they did not want children to watch the speech.”

Florida is a critical swing state that is likely to be crucial in the 2012 election. The Naples Daily News reported that Collier County has twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats – 89,603 to 44,334.

In his prepared remarks, released by the White House, Obama is scheduled to say: “That’s what school’s for: discovering new passions and acquiring the skills to pursue those passions in the future. That’s why one hour you can be an artist; the next, an author; the next, a scientist. Or a historian. Or a carpenter. This is the time when you can try out new interests and test new ideas. And the more you do, the sooner you’ll figure out what makes you come alive.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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