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Palm Beach County School District Takes Precaution On Streaming Inauguration To Students, Causing Confusion

Protests Expected In Washington DC Ahead Of Biden Inauguration
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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: The U.S. Capitol is seen behind fences on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week's riots at the U.S. Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation's capital and in all 50 states. According to reports, as many as 25,000 National Guard soldiers will be guarding the city as preparations are made for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. President. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

The Palm Beach County school district sent out a memo telling teachers if they show the presidential inauguration in their classrooms, they must be, "balanced and fair." Some school officials have interpreted the note to mean they shouldn't share the event with their students at all.

Ahead of Wednesday's presidential inauguration, the Palm Beach County school district reminded school principals of certain guidelines and specific rules teachers should follow when streaming the event for their students. But some school officials at South Grade Elementary in Lake Worth misinterpreted that message and told teachers they were not allowed to stream the inauguration at all.

Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Schools Keith Oswald sent an email last week stating the specific guidelines the district has on conducting political discussion in the classroom. Referring to Wednesday’s inauguration, Oswald wrote that teachers could stream the event if it's “germane” to their course and any discussion or presentation must be "balanced and fair."

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But at South Grade Elementary, art teacher Rebecca Hinson was not told that information. In an email from a colleague, that included notes from a school meeting, teachers were informed to “not stream or show anything on the day of” and to “please not show any live feed,” citing the district for the instruction.

Hinson had been planning to stream President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' inauguration in class.

“I just felt that my students were going to be disappointed, we've been studying about the art and architecture of the Capitol in our art classes,” said Hinson, who teaches kindergartners through fifth graders at the school.

South Grade Elementary Principal Ana Arce-Gonzalez has since clarified, in an email Tuesday, that televising the inauguration is not banned.

According to Oswald, the misinterpretation came from a department chairperson in the school.

“The principal supervisor for that school reached out and talked to the principal and said, 'no, that's not what they said and it was misinterpreted,'" Oswald said.

Oswald said that sending policy reminders and instruction on how to handle viewing the inauguration in class is necessary in the current political climate.

“Unfortunately, emotions are running high in our country and locally and a lot of people have strong beliefs. And unfortunately, our country is divided,” said Oswald. “However, when it comes to teaching and learning, teachers have to follow certain policies and make sure that they remain neutral or teaching all aspects of a particular view.

Miami-Dade County and Monroe County public schools have not sent out any similar instruction prior to inauguration day, according to both school districts’ spokeswoman.

In a copy provided to WLRN by a Broward County Public Schools spokeswoman, chief academic officer Daniel Gohl sent a memo Tuesday to all principals in the county stating they “encourage all teachers and students to view the inauguration of United States President-elect Joe Biden.” And said resources to teach students about the inauguration are available.

“My classmates and I watched the inauguration at school, just like saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing about the land of the free and the home of the brave,” said Hinson. “These rituals bind us together as Americans.”