Greta Hawkins, principal of PS 90, the Edna Cohen School at 2840 West 12th Street, has come under scrutiny for disallowing the graduating kindergartners to sing Lee Greenwood’s flag-touting tune “God Bless the USA,” also known as “Proud to be an American.”
The class, who had practiced the song in preparation for the school’s June 20 musical commencement ceremony, was told to drop the song at a recent rehearsal.
Staff at the rehearsal quote Hawkins as stating that she did not want to “offend other cultures,” according to the New York Post.
The Department of Education stands behind the principal saying that Hawkins found the lyrics “too grown up” for 5-year-olds.
“The lyrics are not age-appropriate,” said a department spokesperson. Last year, the song was sung by fifth-graders.
Instead, the program now calls for Justin Bieber’s, “Baby,” a pre-teen love ballad.
Congressman Bob Turner has issued a statement denouncing Hawkins’ decision:
Its both shocking and unfathomable that anyone – let alone an educator – would have objections to allowing American students to sing patriotic songs about our nation’s freedom. The principles our country was founded on are unlike anywhere else in the world and it is both sensible and just for our history to be celebrated in our schools. Further, allowing Kindergarten students to sing a Justin Beiber song, while barring ‘God Bless the USA,’ demonstrates that this principal lacks the judgment necessary to be in a leadership position in our city’s public schools.
Her decision was a violation of First Amendment rights and has no place in our public education system. She should immediately issue an apology to the families of PS 90 and be reprimanded for her actions.
This is not the first questionable situation to have taken place under Hawkins’ watch. Reports have come forth regarding Hawkins’ objections to children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing “America the Beautiful.”
Hawkins, who sits during the morning Pledge of Allegiance because she is a Jehova’s Witness, has also been quoted as saying “I’m black. Your previous principal was white and Jewish. More of us are coming,” during a previous staff meeting.
The DOE claims that Hawkins is being targeted by the teachers union because of her progressive attitude and that she received racist hate mail. The NYPD is taking the threats seriously and investigating the hate mail.