Updated at 6:19 p.m. ET: A New York City principal has pulled the plug on kindergartners’ hopes to sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” at their graduation ceremony because of lyrics deemed inappropriate, a school official says.
New York Department of Education spokesperson Jessica Scaperotti refuted an earlier report by the New York Post that suggested Greta Hawkins, principal of P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School, decided to swap Justin Bieber’s “Baby” for Greenwood’s patriotic ballad.
“The story is not being reported correctly,” Scaperotti told msnbc.com. “The song is not banned from the school and has been sung at the school before, it is just the lyrics were not age-appropriate for a kindergarten moving-up ceremony. And reports that Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ was going to sung instead are not correct, either.”
Greenwood didn't take lightly to the snub.
"Personally, denying the children of PS 90 to sing 'God Bless the USA,' offends me as a Christian. My song is about hope, faith, spirit and pride. How could that be wrong on any level?'" Greenwood said in a statement.
The New York Post reported Hawkins swapped Bieber’s hit after declaring “God Bless the USA” off-limits.
Scaperotti confirmed the two songs had been scratched off a selection of songs slated for a June 20 ceremony at the Brooklyn public school. Other titles include “You Got a Friend in Me,” and “World is a Rainbow.”
New York City education officials backed Hawkins’ decision on Monday, saying the principal had the final word on song selection for its commencement.
“It’s important to reinforce that they start out the morning every day of the school year with the Pledge of Allegiance and ‘America the Beautiful,’ and that, to me, is what this country is about, and they celebrate that, and that’s how we should start our day," New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said, the Post reported. “You have to really wonder about some of the lyrics in the song, so I have to rely on the principal’s judgment along that line.”
Greenwood’s song begins, "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."
The song became popular during the Gulf War in the 1990s, and then again after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
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