Obama school speech flap continues in Roaring Fork Valley

The Obama education speech faux-controversy controversy is now at least one Obama speech controversy in the past, for most of the country anyway. Not so in Colorado’s Roaring Fork school District, which appears to be one of the few, if not the only, districts in the state that banned live broadcast of the President’s speech in classrooms.

The Roaring Fork RE-1 School District stretches through the Roaring Fork Valley from Glenwood Springs up to Basalt (just below Aspen), growing increasingly wealthy and liberal as it moves upvalley.

This was evident in the angry letters-to-the-editor, which were far more concentrated in the upvalley papers.

Superintendent Judy Haptonstall told The Aspen Daily News that she hadn’t read the speech before deciding to ban it, citing a need to make the decision before the holiday weekend. She made the decision after hearing from “about 30” concerned parents, she said. Wrote one frustrated Aspen Daily News reader:

Well I guess that if we got 30 parents to express interest
in going barefoot to school for the month of December … Ms. Haptonstall would make that happen! How absurd to have 30 parents rule the school district.

According to my calculator (checked twice), the 30 families represent 0.006 percent of the total population of 5,000 students.

Haptonstall particularly took fire for acknowledging Tuesday that she still had not seen or read the speech. An excerpt from a letter in the Aspen Daily News:

Admitting that she had no idea what was in the speech, and
that she did not bother to read the pre-released transcript of the speech,
Haptonstall displayed leadership by allowing a very small minority of
“concerned” parents to dictate what my children should watch.

One Aspen Times reader went ahead and pointed out the district had subjected children to far worse things than Obama’s speech over the years:

As a graduate of the Re-1 School district, I can attest to a variety of things that were allowed to contaminate the minds of students while I was there. Some of my favorites are to include, but are not limited to: the broadcasting of the O.J. Simpson murder trial verdict in my seventh grade math class; a social studies teacher who attempted to rig high school student council elections; a gym teacher who had a relationship with a minor and a track coach who would tell his team members that only those who believed that Jesus Christ was their savior would do well at track meets.

I am thrilled to know that the youth of this valley was spared the ranting of a
United States president; I heard he encouraged the youth of America to take
responsibility for their educations, stay in school and work hard. These are dangerous messages that should certainly have been kept from the eyes and ears of the students in this valley. I am fascinated as to what the nay-saying parents and administrators were afraid that the president would say to school children in a nationally televised speech, perhaps subliminal messages that would warp their children into socialists?

In comments on both The Aspen Times and Aspen Daily News website, one reader called for Haptonstall’s resignation:

Haptonstall should be ashamed. She should lose her job.

The Aspen Daily News reported that the school board agreed to “strongly encourage” teachers to show a recording of the speech to students, after angry parents released “a firestorm of criticism” at a school board meeting Wednesday night.

Board members didn’t directly criticize Haptonstall’s decision, but they agreed teachers now should be encouraged — but not mandated — to show the speech, although parents should be allowed to keep their children from watching.

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Katie Redding

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