CONEY ISLAND — Artist Scott LoBaido is proud to be an American — and he feels the students at PS 90 should be free to sing that they are too.
LoBaido showcased his painting depicting a rifle, a soldier’s helmet and a sleeping baby draped in the American flag Tuesday afternoon outside PS 90, where the school’s principal, Greta Hawkins, recently refused to allow students to sing “Proud to be an American” at graduation.
“The decision to not let these kids sing a song of pride and glory because it might offend other cultures turns my stomach,” said LoBaido, 47, who travels around the country selling his artwork to raise funds for wounded veterans.
“I’m an artist, and I chose to use my gift to defend America, promote America.”
Hawkins set off a firestorm last week after reportedly refusing to allow students to sing the patriotic song, written by Lee Greenwood, at their Kindergarten graduation. But Hawkins reportedly allowed Justin Bieber's song "Baby" to make it onto the list, the Post reported.
After news of the slight was made public, Hawkins yanked Bieber from the approved-songs list, but did not reinstate "Proud to Be an American," according to reports.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said Hawkins reviewed a list of six songs, including "Baby" and "Proud to Be an American."
"The principal felt that the lyrics in 'Baby' and 'Proud to Be an American' were not age appropriate for the kindergartners," said spokeswoman Jessica Scaperotti. "So they will not be singing those songs."
The children will sing the other four songs on the list — "We're All Together Again"; "The World is a Rainbow"; "Shake Your Sillies Out"; and "You've Got a Friend in Me" — at the graduation, Scaperotti added.
Hawkins has received multiple racially insensitive letters calling her a “filthy, dirty, ugly, subhuman gorilla” over the last week, reportedly prompting an investigation by the NYPD's Hate Crimes task force.
LoBaido said he didn’t condone the hate-filled comments, but wished the principal would be more sensitive to the sacrifices of the U.S. military.
“It’s disheartening,” he said. “I hope she’ll see and understand what that song represents—about the men and women that died for the freedom that protects these multi-cultural children.”
A PS 90 teacher, who declined to give her name, said she was appalled by Hawkins’ decision and was thrilled to see someone stand up to her.
“What’s right is right,” said the teacher, 35, who has been at the school for 10 years. “We live in America. There’s nothing wrong with that song.”
LoBaido said Hawkins’ choice reflects a growing trend of putting too much attention on being politically correct.
“How do you think ... people feel that they won’t sing this song, but they’ll pick Justin Bieber?” he asked.