Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Jersey Principal Unapologetic for Videotape of Kids Praising Obama

"The principal of a New Jersey elementary school where young students were videotaped singing the praises of President Obama is making no apologies for the videotape and says she would allow the performance again if she could, according to parents who spoke with her Thursday night.

Three parents told that Dr. Denise King, principal of B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, N.J., defended the controversial performance, which was videotaped and posted on YouTube, when they approached her during a "Back to School" event.

Parent Jim Angelillo said King told him the lesson was merely part of Black History month, and not an attempt to indoctrinate students, as critics have charged. He said he believes teachers have the freedom to express their political views, but not in the classroom.

"Freedom of speech, not freedom to teach," Angelillo told

King has long been a fan of Obama, hanging pictures of the president in her school's hallways and touting her trip to his inauguration in the school yearbook.

Included in the full-page yearbook spread were Obama campaign slogans ("Yes we can! Yes we did!") and photos King took in Washington on Jan. 20, when she attended the inauguration.

There also were photos taken at the school depicting students doing Obama-themed activities about their "hopes for the future," featuring posters of Obama. According to the yearbook, students watched the inauguration in class.

Parents said Elvira James, the teacher of the class that was videotaped, also seemed to be promoting Obama.

"She praised him, she put pictures on the walls," said Jim Pronchick, whose 8-year-old son, Jimmy, was in James' class last year. "When he won (the election) they really went off."

Leslie Gibson, who has two children at the school, said she was "shocked" at the videotape, adding that political beliefs, like religious views, should be kept at home. She also said King made a "big deal" about her attendance at the inauguration.

"Throughout the school, there were signs posted supporting Barack Obama quite a bit," Gibson told "I understand it's a historical event, but on the same token, I like politics to be left at home and I think she should follow that as well."

Attempts to reach King on Friday were unsuccessful. A recording at the school said its mailbox was full and could not accept new messages.

A search of public records revealed that King, 46, of Cinnaminson, N.J., last voted in 2004 and had not declared any political affiliation. No records of political contributions could be found.

In November, the 9,700-plus residents of Burlington, N.J., a Philadelphia suburb, voted overwhelming for Obama, who received 3,285 votes to Sen. John McCain's 1,308.

The controversy over the YouTube video extended into northwest Arkansas on Friday, as officials at the Bernice Young Elementary School in Springdale said they had been received calls from across the country and Canada from irate parents and other individuals."

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