A high school in California has banned the national anthem from pep rallies, after student leadership ruled it was racially insensitive.
The move caught many students, parents, and even administrators by surprise. District officials were not aware of the move until local media asked them about it. Yet, somehow a group of students were able to remove the anthem from a school activity.
“The rally started and it got going and I realized there was no National Anthem,” said California High senior Dennis Fiorentinos, who said the omission of the song was unusual since rallies traditionally start with it.
He was told the student leadership removed the song due to what many consider racist lyrics in the unsung verses.
In a letter to the school paper, Student Body President Ariyana Kermanizadeh specifically noted the third verse, which in part says, “no refuge could save the hireling and slave.”
Kermanizadeh wrote, “This verse translated, finds joy in the killing of African-Americans. To think that our nation’s anthem once had the word slave and ‘land of the free’ in the same sentence leaves me speechless.”
But Fiorentinos has a different take. “The importance of singing the national anthem to honor and respect those who’ve died and sacrificed their lives and protect the freedoms that us Americans take for granted everyday is a much more important and unifying issue,” he said.
Cal High has struggled with racial issues before. Two years ago, racist graffiti was found on campus, including the bathrooms where someone scrawled “whites” above one toilet, and “colored” above another.
But parents we talked with say the national anthem is sacred.
“How can you start any event without the national anthem,” one said.
As for the district, a spokesperson says it just learned about the student leadership’s position on the anthem and officials are looking into it.
Here is news coverage of the incident from ABC 7 in San Francisco.