As school ended two years ago, a Coney Island, N.Y., principal made headlines nationwide for banning a song she said could “offend other cultures.”
The song in question was Lee Greenwood’s classic patriotic tune ‘God Bless the U.S.A.,’ which the top administrator at PS 90 felt contained lyrics that were “too grown-up.”
Young students at the school had traditionally ended the year with a patriotic display, including their rendition of the song accompanied by a flourish of American flags. Greta Hawkins replaced that in 2012 with a ceremony featuring a Justin Bieber song about teen romance and a pro-diversity piece called ‘The World is a Rainbow.’
A Jehovah’s Witness, some contended Hawkins cancelled the patriotic tradition based on her religious objection. Reports at the time indicate that, in compliance with her faith, she personally refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Others suggested she was motivated by intolerance, pointing to a 2010 reprimand the black principal received alleging she made inappropriate – and racist – comments about her own school and a prior Jewish principal.
In any case, she made it clear that she feels it is more appropriate for her students to sing “baby, baby, baby” in the style of troubled teen Justin Bieber than acknowledge their allegiance to America.
This was not the first altercation she initiated with proponents of in-school patriotism. Hawkins reportedly tried to bar students from reciting the Pledge and singing ‘America the Beautiful.’
Two years later, Hawkins is still the principal of PS 90; and according to recent reports, she continues to crusade against patriotic displays.
When pre-kindergarten students planned to carry flags and sing ‘Stand Up for the Red, White and Blue’ at an upcoming ceremony, Hawkins shot down the idea. Ostensibly, her decision was based on the fact that she did not receive proper notice; however, a number of those who work for her suggest this move might just be the latest in a troubling tendency to fight such displays at her school.
BCN editor’s note: This article first appeared at Western Journalism.