By Joseph Harkins
NEW YORK CITY _ New York City parents are sounding off after a controversial Coney Island principal pulled the plug on a scheduled graduation performance of “God Bless the USA” by kindergartners at PS 90, the Edna Cohen School.
To make matters worse for many of the immigrants whose children attend the school, the principal instead gave thumbs up to a Justin Bieber song about teen romance, which was deemed an appropriate selection for the moving up ceremony. The song, “Baby,” includes the lines “Are we an item? Girl, quit playing.”
Greta Hawkins, principal at PS 90, ordered an end to the Lee Greenwood ballad, also known as “Proud to be an American,” after hearing the 5-year-olds rehearse for the June 20, commencement, according to the New York Post.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that she (Hawkins) wouldn’t let them sing it (“God Bless the USA”),” said one parent, who was dropping her child off at the school, where an American Flag waved from a pole above. “They’re kids. They want to sing it: ‘God Bless the USA.’”
Staffers told the Post that Hawkins said the rendition, which was supposed to close a musical show filled with patriotic outfits and American Flags, would offend parents from other cultures.
“So many children come here from all over the world,” said another parent. “Their families want to be free and she (Hawkins) wants to take it away from them. The thing that’s getting to me is that she has no right to do it.”
The New York City Department of Education supports the principal’s decision because – according to a schools chief spokesperson, the lyrics to “God Bless the USA” are not age-appropriate.
The song begins: “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.”
Other songs permitted to remain in the program are “We’re All Together Again,” popular at Scout campfires; “The World is a Rainbow,” which celebrates diversity; “Shake Your Sillies Out,” by Raffi; and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story.”
The DOE spokesperson pointed out that PS 90 kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful” each morning. However, Hawkins allegedly tried to end that tradition a couple years ago, but staff objected.
The principal, a Jehovah’s Witness, does not recite the pledge because her religion forbids followers to salute any nation’s flag. Staffers have said she doesn’t stand in respect during the school-wide ritual.
DOE reprimanded Hawkins back in 2010 after the principal called her school “racist.”