The principal of a Brooklyn, N.Y. elementary school has reportedly pulled the song “God Bless the USA” from a kindergarten graduation ceremony so as not to offend other cultures, according to the New York Post.
The kindergartners had spent several months learning the song, which was set to close out the program, until P.S. 90 principal Greta Hawkins came into a recent rehearsal and told teachers to scrap it.
“We don’t want to offend other cultures,” teachers quoted Hawkins as saying, according to the Post.
Teachers and parents were reportedly shocked by Hawkins’ decision, particularly because the Lee Greenwood song has been sung at school events in the past — and because a rendition of Justin Bieber’s song “Baby” was kept in the program.
Kindergarten mother Luz Lozada told the Post “God Bless the USA” got a standing ovation at last year’s fifth-grade graduation, and that the school’s immigrant parents, including those from Pakistan, Mexico and Ecuador, “love it.”
But New York’s Department of Education gave the Post a different reason for pulling the song: Hawkins thought the lyrics were “too grown up” for 5-year-olds to sing — though Bieber’s were apparently fine.
According to the Post, the Education Department is supporting Hawkins’ decision.
“The lyrics are not age-appropriate,” spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti said.
It’s not the first time “God Bless the USA” has attracted controversy: In April, a Massachusetts elementary school made headlines after students were taught to sing “We love the U.S.A.” instead of “God bless” before ultimately backing down.