A video of Burlington Township elementary school students singing about President Obama during Black History Month has mushroomed into a national debate over the role of politics in the classroom.

In the video, children at B. Bernice Young Elementary School recite barely audible lyrics that repeat the name "Barack Hussein Obama" and describe the president's views on equality.

The children then sing verses such as "Hello, Mr. President / we honor you today / for all your great accomplishments we all [say] hooray. Hooray Mr. President, you are No. 1 / the first black American to lead the nation."

School district officials said the YouTube video was made in February, a month after the presidential inauguration. It became an Internet phenomenon this week after its discovery by conservative opinion leaders including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity of Fox News and columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin.

The state education commissioner has directed Burlington Township School District Superintendent Chris Manno to conduct a thorough review of the incident to ensure that students can celebrate the achievements of African Americans during Black History Month "without inappropriate partisan politics in the classroom," said Beth Auerswald, state education spokeswoman. The review also would determine whether the privacy of the children had been violated, she said.

Auerswald noted that the teacher heard leading the class retired at the end of the last school year. Sources said the state Department of Education had received 80 e-mails about the video, 65 of them from out of state.

"Our curriculum studies, honors, and recognizes those who serve our country," Manno said in a statement. "The recording and distribution of the class activity were unauthorized."

Manno could not be reached yesterday. A day earlier, he told the Burlington County Times that there had been no intention to "indoctrinate" the children, as conservative critics have suggested. "The teacher's intention was to engage the children in an activity to recognize famous and accomplished African Americans," Manno said.

Yesterday, a Fox News truck was parked across from the school as children were dismissed for the day. A school employee responded to a reporter's request to talk to Principal Denise King by calling local police. Leslie Gibson, 38, who has two children at the school, said yesterday she didn't think it was appropriate for educators to tell children the president is "No. 1." That distinction, she said, should be reserved for a role model such as the child's father or mother.

"I want my kids' horizons to be broadened, but not religiously or politically," said Gibson, who described herself as a political independent. She identified the class as a group of second-graders last year who were taught by now-retired teacher Elvira James. Efforts by The Inquirer to reach James were unsuccessful.