NEW YORK (NEWSCORE) - A New York City principal has pulled the plug on patriotism by preventing students from singing "God Bless the USA" at their graduation.
The decision has sparked fireworks at a school filled with proud immigrants.
Greta Hawkins, principal of PS 90, the Edna Cohen School, will not allow kindergarten students to belt out the beloved Lee Greenwood ballad, also known as "Proud to be an American," at their moving-up ceremony.
Five classes spent months learning the patriotic song, which skyrocketed in popularity after the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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.
The curt edict stunned both staff and parents.
"A lot of people fought to move to America to live freely, so that song should be sung with a whole lot of pride," said mom Luz Lozada, whose son, Daniel, is in kindergarten.
The song has been sung at previous school events. Last year's fifth-graders, including another Lozada child, performed it at graduation.
"Everybody applauded and whistled," the mom said. "They gave it a standing ovation."
Parents -- many immigrants from Pakistan, Mexico and Ecuador -- "love it," Lozada said.
A teacher agreed, saying, "It makes them a little goosebumpy and teary-eyed. I've never come across anyone who felt it insulted their culture."
New York Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti gave the New York Post an explanation staffers said they never heard -- that Hawkins found the lyrics "too grown up" for five-year-olds.
The song starts, "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."
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 five-year-olds singing lines such as, "Are we an item? Girl, quit playing."
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