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Elk Grove Elementary Students Forced to Sing and Dance in Front of Peers as Punishment

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ELK GROVE -- It's usually an honor to be asked to sing the national anthem or another patriotic song in front of a big crowd, but not when you're forced to do it as punishment on a stage at your Elk Grove elementary school.

"I heard about it. It's been going around at my school," said second grader Ugonna Ndudim, adding that such a situation could be scary because someone involved may have stage fright.

Ndudim is talking about a Thursday incident at Carroll Elementary school in which eight students who got into trouble at morning recess for a minor rule violation - possibly fidgeting in line - were then forced onto stage in the cafeteria at lunch by two yard duty staff members.

They were told to perform.

"Apparently to sing or to provide some dance steps in apparently a simon-says kind of a response situation. Absolutely...is this...this type of disciplinary action is not approved and it's something that is not condoned by the district or by the school," said Xanthi Pinkerton, spokeswoman for the Elk Grove Unified School District.

"If you fidget you should do something about it, instead of making them sing and punishing them for something that they can't control," said Chidera Onu, while picking up Ndudim and his other young cousin at school.

That last part - the biggest problem for the mother of one of the sixth graders punished with the 'song and dance.'

Still too upset to speak on camera today, she says her child is autistic and can't always control his movements and that he was left embarrassed and in tears with the others.

And there's also an allegation that all of the children forced up on stage were minority children and that the yard duty staff involved taunted them for not knowing the words to some of the song saying, "We thought you were Americans...why don't you know the words to these patriotic songs?"

"Unfortunately I don't know which students were put up. I know that there were eight students and this school is a very diverse school," said Pinkerton.

Carroll Elementary School principal Paul Hauder sent a letter home to parents yesterday and again today about their kids being disciplined in a quote "humiliating" way.

He makes it clear the yard staff involved will not be returning to campus.

Counselors have been made available to the children still feeling traumatized by what happened Thursday.

The district is also planning "refresher' training for yard duty staff so everyone is clear about appropriate disciplinary measures.

Yard duty staff are generally non-certified employees of the district, not teachers.