Cristina Corbin, Joshua Rhett Miller and Michael Sorrentino, Fox News, Sept. 24, 2009
The commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Education ordered a review on Friday following the posting of a video depicting school children singing the praises of President Obama.
In a statement to FOXNews.com, Education Department spokeswoman Beth Auerswald said the commissioner has directed the school’s superintendent to review the matter. Auerswald said the commissioner wants to ensure that students can celebrate Black History Month without “inappropriate partisan politics in the classroom.”
As critics of the video claimed it amounted to “indoctrination,” the tension at B. Bernice Young Elementary School escalated to such a degree Thursday that the school was placed temporarily on lockdown after its principal received death threats over a YouTube video that showed nearly 20 children being taught songs lauding the president, though back-to-school night events continuing as planned Thursday night at the school.
Video of the students at the Burlington, N.J., school shows them singing songs seemingly overflowing with campaign slogans and praise for “Barack Hussein Obama,” repeatedly chanting the president’s name and celebrating his accomplishments, including his “great plans” to “make this country’s economy No. 1 again.”
One song that the children were taught quotes directly from the spiritual “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” though Jesus’ name is replaced with Obama’s: “He said red, yellow, black or white/All are equal in his sight. Barack Hussein Obama.”
The video has set off some families in Burlington, who said they were horrified that their children at the being “indoctrinated” to view the president like a cult figure.
“I’m stunned–I can’t believe it’s our school,” said Jim Pronchik, who told FOXNews.com his 8-year-old son Jimmy was one of the 18 students in the video. “We don’t want to praise this guy like he’s a god or an idol or a king or anything like that. That’s the wrong message to be sending.”
Pronchik said he and his wife were never informed about the lesson, which the superintendent of Burlington Township schools says was held in February as part of Black History Month “to honor the contributions of African Americans to our country.”
But Andrea Ciemnolonski, the parent of another one of the students in the video, said the song was part of a second-grade project on a variety of topics related to the month of February, such as Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day.
“They did songs about President Washington, Lincoln, and they did do one about President Obama,” Ciemnolonski said. “My daughter was in the class that did the songs about Obama. It was black history month. . . . It was something for the kids to celebrate.”
Superintendent Christopher Manno said in a written statement Thursday that the taping itself was out of order, but failed to address whether the lesson was approved. “The recording and distribution of the class activity were unauthorized,” he wrote in a note to parents and the media.
Parents said the songs were performed in Elvira James’ second grade class. James, who refused to comment to FOXNews.com, retired at the end of the previous school year on a full pension in New Jersey.
“This video is disturbing,” said a grandparent named Sandy, who spoke on the condition that her last name not be included. “We don’t teach politics in pre-school–or kindergarten or first grade.”
“This has no place in the classroom,” said Sandy, added Sandy, who told FOXNews.com she has two grandchildren attending Bernice Young Elementary. “It may have been the opinion of one or two, and someone should pay the consequences for it.”
The author of the songs is unknown, but a woman–possibly a teacher–can be heard in the beginning of the video correcting and helping a student who has forgotten the words. Another woman, the person holding the camera, cheers the students on: “All right,” she says. “I like that.”
“Alteredbeat,” the YouTube user who posted the video on the Internet, told FOXNews.com that the video was first put online by Charisse Carney-Nunes, an activist and author of the children’s book “I Am Barack Obama,” which her website says “allows children to see themselves through the inspirational story of President Obama.” Carney-Nunes has been promoting the book during visits to schools on the east coast.
“Alteredbeat” told FOXNews.com that he reached out to Carney-Nunes, who insisted that the program had been filmed in June as part of a Father’s Day tribute to President Obama. “The kids made up the songs on their own,” she wrote, according to the YouTube user.
[Ed Note: Click here to see the video and lyrics.]