October 12, 2009

When a group of conservatives -- angered by a video showing kindergartners singing a song praising President Obama -- announced last week that they'd be protesting outside a Burlington Township, N.J., school today, school officials asked them to reconsider, since the school -- which houses kindergartners to second-graders -- would be in session:

The planned rally has school district officials planning to beef up security at the B. Bernice Young School in Burlington Township, which houses kindergartners through second-graders.

The song drew national attention last month after a video of the performance was posted on YouTube. Conservatives say it shows how schoolchildren are being indoctrinated to idolize Obama, allegations school officials have denied.

The Obama song initially was performed during a Black History Month assembly in February and was repeated in March when author Charisse Carney-Nunes, who wrote the children's book "I Am Barack Obama," visited the school.

Someone apparently with Carney-Nunes videotaped that performance and posted it at the author's Web site without the approval of school officials. A copy of that video appeared in September on YouTube, titled "School Kids Taught to Praise Obama."

Citing concerns for the safety of students and staff, Superintendent Christopher Manno has asked organizers to reconsider the protest because classes will be held that day. Manno said protesters will not be allowed on school property and additional district staffers will be on hand.

The protesters refused, of course, to reconsider:

Bill Haney, a rally organizer, said members of several groups would take part in the protest, although it was not clear Sunday how many people would be involved.

"Consider this a protest to squelch this trend to politicize our youth," organizers said in a prepared statement. "We are supporting the constitutional rights of our children and protest against the progressive social agenda promoted by the New Jersey Education Association and the National Education Association."

So there they were today, frightening children and their parents needlessly. Of course, rather than harass schoolkids, these protesters would have been more effective if they had gone, say, to a school-board meeting where decisions like these are dealt with.

At least one of the parents whose 7-year-old daughter was in the video spoke to Fox reporter Laura Ingle at the scene, and relayed her thoughts in a brief snippet:

My child's image has been hijacked, to produce -- I'm sorry, to promote a political agenda.

Now, Ingle makes this sound as if the parent is concerned about the school "indoctrinating" her child, which was what the protesters were there about. But what's clear from reading news accounts -- as well as Ingle's own reportage -- is that the parents were upset that the right-wingers had transformed a harmless school song into a cause celebre promoting the right-wing anti-Obama agenda.

This cropped up in local news accounts too:

The school district, in a statement, said that it "does not believe that protesting in front of an elementary school in session with four to seven year old children is appropriate."

The statement says that on Oct. 8, Manno contacted one of the protest's organizers personally and offered to meet with this person, who declined to meet. "It is unfortunate," the statement continued, "that an innocent, well-intentioned classroom activity by a well-respected teacher has become the object of so much debate."

Well, who were these protesters? Local parents upset with the district? -- You know, people who actually have something at stake with the conduct of their local schools?

Erm, largely no. The Courier-Post was only able to find one local couple who actually had a child at the school among the protesters (and they were more concerned with the video's release than with its content). According to the NY Daily News, they were a bunch of Glennbeckians who arrived at the school from elsewhere:

Haney's group, the 912 Project Burlington Group, is an offshoot [of] the national 912 Project founded by conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck.

Haney said he hopes the rally will force the reassignment of school principal Denise King and will result in a reprimand of Schools Superintendent Christopher Manno by the state Board of Education.

Classy bunch, these folks.

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