SAN RAMON, Calif. - A leadership class at California High School in San Ramon made the decision to no longer include the national anthem as part of the school’s pep rallies, citing racial controversy at a school where vandals had once trashed the bathroom with signs of "whites" and "colored."
The move is an effort to combat racism at the school, but it also has other students upset.
Student Dennis Fiorentinos contacted KTVU, to voice his upset that the “Star Spangled Banner” was not sung at the recent winter rally.
“I think that the national anthem is an important part of our history and culture,” Fiorentinos said. “By ignoring it, it pays little respect to those who have fought and died for our freedoms.”
Parent Marcy Watson agreed. "I'm disgusted," she said, adding that this is something the student "actually look forward to."
The school’s newspaper paper explained that school leadership officers and the rally committee skipped the anthem over controversy from the unsung verses of the song considered racist.
That unsung verse of the national anthem contains the phrase, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or gloom of the grave.” And that offended many at school, pushing groups like the NAACP to call for a ban all together. The Associated Student Body president sent a letter to students after discussion erupted following the rally.
“After learning about the third verse, the other ASB officers and I thought that this was completely unacceptable and must be removed from the rally,” the letter said in part. “We had nothing but good intentions by removing the song so that we could be fully inclusive to our student body.”
The campus newspaper article said a leadership advisor agreed the song is problematic and all students need to feel welcomed. The school has already had its share of racism erupt on campus. Two years ago, California High was hit with at least four racist incidents were reported in the district, including a time when a student wrote "whites" above one toilet in the boys bathroom and "colored" above another."
“We didn’t really know why we were doing the anthem during the rally,” advisor Erin McFerrin said. “We just thought it was something maybe we could take out.”
The feelings among students were rather mixed, with some unconcerned while others were bothered.
“I do understand what they were thinking and why they did it,” Fiorentinos said. “But I think it is more important to honor those that have fallen to protect our country.”
Parent Garrett Fogel said that he realized the move would "ruffle feathers," but at the same time, he applauded the students for their social awareness of this "trending issue," adding "they have every right to do it."
KTVU's Alex Savidge contributed to this report.