School Pulls Patriotic Song at Graduation, But Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ Is OK

Susan Edelman, NY Post, June 11, 2012

A controversial Coney Island principal has pulled the plug on patriotism.

Her refusal to let students sing “God Bless the USA” at their graduation has sparked fireworks at a school filled with proud immigrants.

Greta Hawkins, principal of PS 90, the Edna Cohen School, won’t allow kindergartners to belt out the beloved Lee Greenwood ballad, also known as “Proud to be an American,” at their moving-up ceremony.

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It was to be the rousing finale of their musical show at the June 20 commencement. The kids, dressed up for their big day, would wave tiny American flags—which, as the lyrics proclaim, “still stand for freedom.”

But Hawkins marched in on a recent rehearsal and ordered a CD playing the anthem to be shut off, staffers said.

She told the teachers to drop the song from the program.

“We don’t want to offend other cultures,” they quoted her as explaining.

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Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti gave The Post an explanation staffers said they never heard—that Hawkins found the lyrics “too grown up” for 5-year-olds.

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Scaperotti said the department supports the principal’s decision. “The lyrics are not age-appropriate,” she said.

But Justin Bieber’s flirty song about teen romance, “Baby,” was deemed a fine selection for the show. Hawkins had no problem with 5-year-olds singing lines such as, “Are we an item? Girl, quit playing.”

The other songs: “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.”

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The principal, a Jehovah’s Witness, does not recite the pledge because her religion forbids followers to salute any nation’s flag. {snip}

The song uproar comes amid tensions. Hawkins has been called a tyrant and bully by some staffers.

The DOE reprimanded her in 2010 after teachers complained she called the school “racist” and declared: “I’m black. Your previous principal was white and Jewish. More of us are coming.”

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Greta Hawkins

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