According to the New York Post
, five classes at the school spent several months rehearsing the patriotic song also known as "Proud to be an American."
reports Hawkins, speaking to her staff, said the Lee Greenwood ballad was removed from the program because "We don't want to offend other cultures."
The song became very popular in the U.S. soon after the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and it was originally planned to be the rousing finale of the kindergartens' musical show at the June 20 commencement. The kids would have waved tiny American flags to the song, New York Post
reports. But the principal walked in while the kids rehearsed the song and ordered the CD playing the song turned off. She told the teachers to drop the song from the program, saying, "We don't want to offend other cultures."
reports that the order stunned teachers and parents, and some have protested. The song has been featured at previous school events. Last year's fifth-graders performed it at their graduation, New York Post
reports. According to Daily Mail
, a mother Luz Lozada, said, “Everybody applauded and whistled. They gave it a standing ovation.”
Lozada expressed her disappointment at the decision: “A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride." New York Post
reports many immigrant parents say they love the song.
A teacher commented: “It makes them a little goosebumpy and teary-eyed. I’ve never come across anyone who felt it insulted their culture.”
New York Post
reports that Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti said the principal claimed that the lyrics were "too grown up" for 5-year-olds.
Scaperotti said the department agreed with Hawkins that the lyrics are "not age appropriate." MSN Now
reports that the Department of Education said that the song's lyrics included references to having children and wife. Scaperotti suggested it should be sufficient that the children recite Pledge of Allegiance and sing "America the Beautiful" every morning at school.
According to Daily Mail
, some staff members claimed Hawkins had tried to stop the students from saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "America the Beautiful" a few years before. Hawkins is a Jehovah's Witness and does not recite the pledge because her religion does not allow her. Daily Mail
reports that some members of staff complain that she does not stand respectfully when the students recite the Pledge.
According to the New York Post
, the latest incident comes amid growing tension in the school between the principal and the teachers. Hawkins has been called a bully and tyrant by some of the teachers. New York Post
reports that the Department of Education (DOE) reprimanded her in 2010 after some teachers complained that she called them "racist." According to the complaint, she said: “I’m black. Your previous principal was white and Jewish. More of us are coming.”
Scaperotti said the DOE has evidence that Hawkins is being targeted by the teachers union and she has received hate mail. The case is under investigation by the NYPD.
According to New York Post
, Bieber's "flirty song" about teen romance titled "Baby," was considered "age appropriate" and Hawkins apparently has no problem with 5-year-olds singing "Are we an item? Girl, quit playing."
Other songs on the program include "We’re All Together Again," "The World is a Rainbow," "Shake Your Sillies Out," by Raffi, and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story.”
reports that it not the first time “God Bless the USA” has been at the center of controversy. In April, an elementary school in Massachusetts caused a controversy after students were taught to sing “We love the U.S.A.“ instead of ”God bless” before ultimately backing down.