A New York principal who is a Jehovah's Witness says kindergarteners won't be allowed to sing "God Bless the USA" at their forthcoming graduation as it could "offend other cultures." But she thinks it's appropriate for them to sing a Justin Bieber song with flirty lyrics.
Greta Hawkins, principal of PS 90, the Edna Cohen School on Coney Island, believes the lyrics of the Lee Greenwood ballad "are not age-appropriate," the New York Post reported Sunday, adding she had no problem with Bieber's song about teen romance, "Baby," which the 5-year-olds will be singing.
Hawkins' decision, which came months after five classes had been learning the patriotic song, has sparked fury among parents and teachers. "A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride," a parent, Luz Lozada, was quoted as saying.
The song, which became popular after the 9/11 terror attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was planned as the finale of their musical show at the June 20 commencement. Staffers say the school has many immigrants, and they have loved the song whenever it was sung at earlier functions. "It makes them a little goosebumpy and teary-eyed," a teacher told the Post. "I've never come across anyone who felt it insulted their culture."
Surprisingly, the Department of Education has supported Hawkins' decision. DOE spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti defended the principal, saying she found the lyrics "too grown up" for kindergarteners. She also said the principal had received hate mail and could be a target of the teachers union.
In 2010, Hawkins tried to end the tradition of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "America the Beautiful" each morning, but teachers raised objections.
Being a Jehovah's Witness, Hawkins refuses to recite the pledge.