The student leadership at a California high school has banned "The Star-Spangled Banner" from school rallies, calling the national anthem "outdated and racially insensitive."
Ariyana Kermanizadeh, president of the Associated Student Body at California High School in San Ramon, explained the decision in a letter to the school's newspaper last week, reported KGO-TV, the ABC affiliate in San Francisco.
"A few weeks before the rally it was brought to our attention that the national anthem's third verse is outdated and racially insensitive," Kermanizadeh wrote. "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 rarely sung third verse of the national anthem in part says, "No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave."
"We understand that this third verse is not included when the anthem is performed, but still, what does this tell us?" the letter read. "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."
The anthem was not performed at the start of a winter pep rally on Jan. 19.
"They've always played the national anthem, so I thought maybe they just forgot, but then I realized there's no way they just forgot the national anthem," Dennis Fiorentinos, 18, a senior at California High, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Fiorentinos then asked about the anthem's absence and learned that the Associated Student Body had banned it. He does not agree with the body's decision.
"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 told KGO-TV.
He is not alone. Parents also told KGO-TV that the anthem is sacred.
"How can you start any event without the national anthem," one said.
The station reported that the school district just learned about the student leadership's decision and is looking into the matter.
Despite vocal opposition, Kermanizadeh said the decision to ban the national anthem is meant to make the school more inclusive to all, noting that the song was written 204 years ago.
"Imagine all the traditions and laws that have changed," she wrote. "As our culture shifts to one that is more diverse and accepting of all types of people, so must our traditions … No longer are we doing things for solely the sake of ‘tradition.'"
The letter added that, while "we understand that this anthem represents pride and patriotism in our country to many people, we believe that there are other ways that this can be accomplished without an expense to inclusivity on our campus."