As school bells signaled the end of the day, students at PS 90 in Brooklyn greeted their parents. Moments after students began exiting the school doors, senate hopeful Rep. Congressman Bob Turner and his staff arrived and a showdown between two factions of angered parents took place.
The congressman was there to chime in with kids singing Lee Greenwood’s patriotic anthem, God Bless the U.S.A., which had been removed by PS 90’s principal from a kindergarten graduation ceremony. Watch as Turner and some of the children take their revenge in the video above.
A week ago PS 90’s Principal Greta Hawkins made headlines when it was alleged that she had banned the song from the graduation event because the lyrical content was “too adult” for the children to sing, and she didn’t want to offend students of different cultures. Many parents were outraged by this, especially when it was made known that Justin Bieber’s hit Baby was to remain on the song list.
The same day the story hit the press a Facebook page was launched slamming the principal’s removal of the song and an online petition was created to demand her resignation. Despite the parent’s outrage City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott supported Hawkins’ decision saying, “You have to really wonder about some of the lyrics in the song, so I have to rely on the principal’s judgement along that line” in a statement to the Post. Since then even Mayor Bloomberg has gotten involved, and encouraged Principal Hawkins to reconsider Bieber’s Baby as a song choice, the top-charting tune has also now been removed from the kindergarten graduation.
The rising tensions over the last week all came to a head yesterday afternoon when Turner showed up to sing with some of the students. Despite previously arranging to sing the song on the school’s Neptune Playground, the congressman was refused entry as school security said a rental company was picking up supplies from a carnival and would not be able to move. One of Turner’s staff angrily argued with the school’s security for several minutes before saying, “Fine we’ll just do it on the sidewalk!”
A random group of children were gathered in group, with Turner’s staff asking them “Don’t you want to be on TV?” Each child was given an American flag, a sheet with the lyrics to the Lee Greenwood song and a copy of Greenwood’s book Does God Still Bless the USA?
As 20 or so students started to sing the opening stanza, the two factions of parents began arguing loudly. On the one side was Luz Lozada, one of the parents from the Facebook group; on the other was Jorge Rosado, husband of PTA president Deena Rosado.
Lozada and Rosado began a screaming match that lasted the duration of the children singing and boiled over further when they began shouting obscenities at one another over a sea of students.
As the shouting was going on, Turner posed for a few more photos and then was quickly whisked away to another scheduled engagement. With a crowd of embittered parents left in his wake, two of Turner’s aids yelled out, “Stand up for your country, kids! God bless the USA!”
“They’ve made an issue of everything she’s [Principal Greta Hawkins] done since she got here in 2009,” said Deena Rosado President of the PTA. When we asked Rosado why Hawkins has had such difficulty, she responded, “To be frank, it’s because she’s black….The principal overheard the kids singing God Bless the USA and they couldn’t sing the words because the lyrics were too difficult. It had nothing to do with race.”
Rosado and her husband were handing out lengthy notices to parents outlining the facts about the kindergarten graduation song controversy. Rosado’s husband Jorge also believes that the school’s parents are angry about having a black principal rather than an amended song list.
“When she first got here she said she’d like to hire more minority teachers,” said Jorge. “And the other parents and the faculty didn’t like that. I’m Puerto Rican, and not to be stereotypical but my mother would have made a great teacher because she knew how to handle 30-40 kids at a time and some of these teachers can’t.”
But other parents such as Luz Lozada claim their objections have nothing to do with race. “We feel the children should stand up for their rights and the United States,” she said. “Half of the parents that are defending the principal are only doing it because she promised them jobs and money.” Lozada also alleged that the Principal has mismanaged Title I money given to the school and misappropriated PTA funds. Last week Lozada’s son Daniel sang God Bless the USA during an appearance on Fox News’ program Fox and Friends, during which Lee Greenwood called in support of the parents protesting the principal’s decision.