A grade school principal in Coney Island won't allow patriotic kindergartners to sing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" at their moving up ceremony this month, deeming the ballad "too grown up" for five-year-olds.
The New York Post reports that Greta Hawkins, principal at the Edna Cohen School, interrupted a recent rehearsal by pulling the plug on the song that five classes had spent months learning for the June 20 commencement.
"We don't want to offend other cultures," teachers recalled Hawkins saying, according to the Post.
The abrupt rejection of the song also known as "Proud to be an American" left parents and faculty members stunned because it had been a hit at previous ceremonies.
"A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride," mother Luz Lozada, whose son is in kindergarten, told the Post. She noted that parents "applauded and whistled" after fifth-graders performed the song last year.
Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti agreed with
Hawkins' assessment, telling the Post that the lyrics were "not
age-appropriate." The song's first lyrics are below:
"If tomorrow all the things were gone, I'd worked for all my life. And I had to start again, with just my children and my wife, I'd thank my lucky stars, to be livin’ here today."
This isn't the first time Hawkins, a Jehovah's Witness, has tried to put an end to such patriotism. Insiders told the Post that she does not recite the Pledge of Allegiance, written by Rome, N.Y. native Francis Bellamy in 1892, because her religion forbids her from saluting any nation's flag. Staffers also said she has tried to end the school's morning ritual of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "America the Beautiful."
The Pledge of Allegiance has become a hot-button issue in recent years.Elementary schools in Lamont, Calif. caught headlines in December because they began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in English and Spanish.
In 2010, Hawkins was reprimanded by the Department of Education after calling the school "racist" and declaring, "I'm black. Your previous principal was white and Jewish. More of us are coming."
The New York Daily News reports that the NYPD and education officials are now investigating a series of racist hate mail that was sent to Hawkins following her controversial decisions. A Facebook page calling for the principal's firing has also been set up.
Lee Greenwood's patriotic anthem didn't meet Hawkins' standards, but she did select a group of songs that did. Among them were Justin Bieber's "Baby," Raffi's "Shake Your Sillies Out" and "You've Got a Friend in Me" from the movie "Toy Story."
What do you think -- Should the kindergartners be allowed to sing "God Bless the USA" at their moving up ceremony? Leave your comments below.
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