The New York Post reports five classes at the elementary school spent months learning the patriotic song in anticipation of performing it at the ceremony, but Hawkins canceled the performance at a recent rehearsal.
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.
Later Hawkins received backing by the Department of Education. Their spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti said that she believed the lyrics were “too grown up” for five-year-olds. “The lyrics are not age-appropriate,” she said.
Hawkins was willing to allow the Justin Bieber song “Baby” to be performed at the June 20 commencement as a replacement. Hawkins had no problem with 5-year-olds singing lines such as, “Are we an item? Girl, quit playing.”
Scaperotti noted that PS 90 kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful” each morning. Insiders say Hawkins tried to end that tradition a couple years ago but staff objected.
This is not the first time that Ms. Hawkins has been called out. Hawkins, took the helm of the 80% minority school in September of 2009. Within a year, she came under investigation for allegedly calling her school “a racist building” because so few teachers are minorities. According to teachers, Hawkins addressed the issue of race at a June 2010 meeting in the school auditorium, and many of her staff didn’t like what she said.
“This is a racist building,” Hawkins said at the meeting, according to teachers who took notes.
“You’re all used to white, Jewish principals who only hired whites. The school culture is going to change.”
Hawkins then vowed to hire more black teachers, according to teachers who were at the meeting.
“Many more [black teachers] are coming, but I will hire one white person,” Hawkins said, according to the teachers.
Staffers said racial tensions at the school are minimal, and Hawkins never mentioned the issue of race in any previous meetings.
One incident is bad. Two incidents should cause parents and school officials to demand that Greta Hawkins be removed from her position and never have a part in the administration of any other school.
At a Monday morning news conference with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott reporters learned that the school will not be singing the Bieber song.
“I understand some of the issues that people raised, it’s my understanding that…song also will not be part of the moving up ceremony as well,” Walcott said, referring to the Justin Beiber song.