National Anthem no longer at rallies

Students who attended the winter rally last month might have noticed that something was missing: the National Anthem.

Although many students might not have even noticed that the “Star Spangled Banner” was not sung at the winter rally on Jan. 19, some students did.

And they were curious as to why it was removed.

School leadership officers and the rally committee decided to skip the anthem due to the recent controversy involving unsung verses of the song that are deemed racist.

In recent months, the California chapter of the National Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been trying to push for the removal of the national anthem because they view it as racist and anti-black, according to CBS News.

The unsung verse in question contains the phrase, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave…”

Leadership adviser Erin McFerrin agrees that the song is problematic and that action should be taken moving forward to ensure that every student feels welcomed, especially after last year when racial graffiti was found on campus.

“In the leadership class, [we strive on] being really inclusive and mindful of all the decisions we make,” said McFerrin. “We didn’t really know why we were doing [the anthem during] the rally, so we just thought it was something maybe we could take out.”

Many students, such as senior Alexis Hooper, didn’t notice the song was removed until informed.

“I don’t really care,” Hooper said. “The National Anthem is a tradition from many years ago and the only people who really care about it are older generations.”

But some students in this generation feel this decision is uncalled for.

Senior Amir Udler feels the decision was at best, incorrect, and at worst, unpatriotic.

“It comes from a very disrespectful place,” said Udler “[Leadership] said it was in the name of ‘exclusivity’, but in reality, [leadership] is disenfranchising the vast majority of the school who loves the country, and who thinks the anthem should be played.”

Senior Dennis Fiorentinos also disagrees with the decision.

“I respect their decision to make the change and I understand why they did it, but I feel that the anthem doesn’t stand for that,” said Fiorentinos “I feel that California High School honoring and respecting those who have died protecting our freedom is more important.”

Fiorentinos said he was so upset by the decision he contacted various news organizations, such as KTVU and Fox News. After The Californian was published on Feb. 9, KTVU Fox 2 and ABC 7 News both aired stories addressing the controversy. The East Bay Times also published a story on Feb. 13.

The story made national news that day when Fiorentinos was interviewed on Todd Starnes’ Fox radio broadcast. During the 10-minute interview, Fiorentinos explained what happened and expressed his disapproval of the decision making. Fiorentinos was praised by Starnes for standing up for the National Anthem and what his beliefs.

Starnes wrapped up his segment by encouraging his listeners to contact the San Ramon Valley Unified School District to express their concerns about this matter.

Some students and teachers on campus, such as teacher Barbara Carpenter, feel the leadership class should make the decision based on the student body’s opinion.

“I would like to see leadership poll the entire school, and see what the entire student body and staff want, not just what leadership students want,” she said.

Assistant principal Kathleen Martins, who oversees leadership, was unaware this decision was made before the rally.

The National Anthem will not be sung at rallies for the remainder of the year. A decision about rallies in future years will come at a later date.

ASB council declined to comment but provided an open letter published in The Californian that addresses the leadership decision.