"We were there in protest of the indoctrination," said Burlington County resident Beverly Marinelli by phone after the protest yesterday. "We did it for the children."
Bill Haney, a member of conservative talk-show host Glen Beck's 9.12 Project and one of the protest's organizers, said about 85 to 100 people, some from antitax Tea Parties, showed up to chant slogans such as "Shame on You," sing patriotic songs and call for the reassignment of the school's principal.
"It was in protest of the school administration, particularly the school principal, for allowing this political message to be funneled through children," Haney said by phone after the protest. "They're using children to promote a particular agenda."
According to a lengthy letter to parents posted on the Burlington Township School District's Web site, Superintendent Christopher Manno asked the protesters to reconsider their rally because Columbus Day was not a holiday and children would be present.
Manno also asked the protesters to meet with him privately instead.
"They declined and indicated that they would move forward with the rally," the letter stated.
According to the letter, the lyrics to the Obama song were sent home to parents before the first performance during a Black History Month celebration in February at the school.
"There were no concerns or complaints before, during or after the program," the letter said.
A school district investigation found that when Charisse Carney-Nunes, the Washington, D.C.-based author of the children's book "I Am Barack Obama," visited the school the following month, a member of her entourage illegally taped the children singing the songs.
That video, which featured a diverse mix of second-grade students at the school, was posted on YouTube under various titles.
In one song, the children, led by an unknown adult, sing about the president:
"He said take a stand, make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said red, yellow, black and white, all are equal in his sight."
Ciemnolonski, despite her initial anger, was joined by a handful of others in supporting the school. Susan Lumia, of Burlington Township, a sociologist, balked at the notion that the protest had been for the children.
"The only thing the kids are going to learn from this is that racism and hatred are alive and well in this country," she said.
"It's a negative lesson today."
Jim Isaia, a former Marine and member of the 9.12 Project, arrived in his Chevy pickup after the protesters left, but expressed concerns over the president's health-care plans, his "communist" views and the school district's judgment.
"Everything's fine except it shouldn't have been done for a standing president," he said.
"It's an attempt to politicize kids."