A controversial Coney Island principal has pulled the plug on patriotism.
Her refusal to let students sing “God Bless the USA” at their graduation has sparked fireworks at a school filled with proud immigrants.
Greta Hawkins, principal of PS 90, the Edna Cohen School, won’t allow kindergartners 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: “It makes them a little goosebumpy and teary-eyed. I’ve never come across anyone who felt it insulted their culture.”
Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti gave The Post an explanation staffers said they never heard — that Hawkins found the lyrics “too grown up” for 5-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 5-year-olds singing lines such as, “Are we an item? Girl, quit playing.”
The other songs: “We’re All Together Again,” popular at Scout campfires; “The World is a Rainbow,” which celebrates diversity; “Shake Your Sillies Out” by Raffi; and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story.”
Scaperotti noted 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.
The principal, a Jehovah’s Witness, does not recite the pledge because her religion forbids followers to salute any nation’s flag. Staffers gripe she doesn’t stand in respect during the school-wide ritual.
The song uproar comes amid tensions. Hawkins has been called a tyrant and bully by some staffers.
The DOE reprimanded her in 2010 after teachers complained she called the school “racist” and declared: “I’m black. Your previous principal was white and Jewish. More of us are coming.”
Scaperotti said Hawkins is being targeted by the teachers union and has received hate mail, which is under investigation by the NYPD.
NYPOST -- They’re proud to be un-American. City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott is standing behind a Brooklyn principal’s controversial decision to pull the plug on a popular patriotic song that was scheduled to be performed at a kindergarten graduation.
PS 90 Principal Greta Hawkins won’t allow the boys and girls to belt out Lee Greenwood’s ballad “God Bless the USA” because it’s not “age appropriate.”
And Walcott yesterday said that’s fine by him.
“It’s her judgment to make that decision,” Walcott said. “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.
“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.”
Walcott was responding to The Post’s story about Hawkins’ unpopular decision to ditch the ditty after marching in on a rehearsal for the June 20 moving-up ceremony.
It was replaced on the playlist with Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” a flirty song about teenage romance.
At issue, according to a Department of Education spokeswoman, are lyrics from the tune’s opening verse: “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.”
They were deemed inappropriate for the 5-year-olds.
Staffers quoted Hawkins as saying, “We don’t want to offend other cultures.”
Parents and teachers angry over Hawkins’ decision yesterday launched a Facebook page demanding her ouster.
“If the DOE has any brains they should remove her tomorrow,’’ seethed one angry anonymous staffer in a posting. “We were the victims of 9/11. It hit New York really hard. That song became famous because of that tragedy. Removing that song is horrific. It’s opening the wound again.”
Hawkins could not be reached for comment.
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