Teachers’ decision on Trump inauguration: Let class watch, or not?

Metro Atlanta school districts will let teachers decide whether students in their classroom watch Donald Trump’s inauguration, and that decision could put teachers at odds with some parents.

A Michigan teacher started an uproar after announcing Wednesday that he will not let his fourth-graders watch Trump’s inaugural address because of concern about “children being exposed to language and behavior that is not in concert with the most conservative social and family values.”

Parents responded in volume, leading Williamston Community Schools Superintendent Narda Murphy to explain on the district’s website that the district’s policy is to let teachers decide what to show their students.

Gwinnett, Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb and Atlanta school districts adhere to the same practice. Cobb County lets principals decide.

“Teachers have the flexibility to show current events to students as an educational exercise,” Atlanta Public Schools Executive Director of Communications Pat St. Claire said in an email.

DeKalb County Schools sent each principal instructions for teachers who choose to show the inauguration, which recommended five steps:

• avoid interjecting your personal political beliefs

• allow the students to communicate with each other

• use instructional resources

• ensure students communicate respectfully

• connect the inaugural activities to the curriculum.

Trump's inauguration, as Americans are deeply divided about the new president, isn't the first time educators' handling of current events or history have become a touchy subject to some. Revisions of advanced placement history courses drew parents' ire in Gwinnett County and elsewhere, for example, and complaints from Walton County parents about a classroom lesson about Islam prompted the state education department to remove a teaching guide on the subject.

Eddie Bennett, executive director of Georgia Council for the Social Studies, said, “I think kids should watch it.” He believes students old enough to understand it have a lot to gain from watching the inauguration. “Especially in high school government classes, I think it would generate good discussion and get students engaged.”

Bennett noted that parents have raised concerns with previous inaugurations, and said he recognizes that what parents decide is final.

On that point, Joyce Brewer, the Emmy award-winning creator of “Mommy Talk Show” and self-described “Atlanta mom blogger,” strongly agrees.

Brewer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she does not want the inauguration shown to her six-year-old son.

“I don’t think that teachers or schools should insert themselves into the situation by broadcasting this inauguration,” Brewer said. “I think that it is up to parents to make that decision …”

Gwinnett and Fulton offer alternative instruction for students whose parents request that their children do not watch the ceremony.

“The inauguration is an opportunity to teach students about the government process, but parents are being allowed to opt out their student if they wish,” said Susan Hale, Fulton County Schools spokesperson, in an email.

At least one private school, Holy Spirit Preparatory School, is taking a different approach. The private Atlanta Catholic school will host its high school students in its gym to watch the inauguration as a school community.

“Events like inaugurations are historically significant, and it’s important that our students are witness to historical moments, particularly in an academic environment where they are able to process and inquire about the events with thoughtful adults who care about students and their formation,” Director of Marketing and Communications Timothy Durski said in an email.