Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, NY was divided this week, when the pledge of allegiance was recited in Arabic over the morning announcements — part of a week-long celebration of multiculturalism at the New York school.
Within hours, the student body began to speak out on social media with thoughts ranging from thoughtful to hateful.
Pine Bush Senior Class President Andrew Zink, who normally reads the morning announcements and the pledge in English over the loudspeaker every morning, said he was aware the decision would ruffle some feathers. But when two students and a teacher approached him about the change, he realized two things:
1. There would be a polarized reaction from the student body.
2. It had to happen.
"Well, I knew it would be unpopular," Zink told MTV News. "I knew exactly what would happen. And I felt it was the right thing to do."
As the day went on, an apology was read over the loud speaker and a statement was posted to the Pine Bush Central School District website. It included the line, "The intention was to promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country."
Local paper The Times Herald-Record reported that Pine Bush School District Superintendent Joan Carbone had "received complaints from district residents who had lost family members in Afghanistan and from Jewish parents who were equally outraged by the reading."
Although the pledge was meant to be read in other foreign languages throughout the week, something fell through with the plan on Monday and Tuesday, Zink said, making Wednesday the first day of the celebration.
But Zink says he doubts it makes much of a difference.
"No matter what, people were going to have that reaction," Zink said. "It doesn't matter what languages were read before."
By the end of the day, students who were in support of the reading and against were equally upset and vocal about their feelings. Early Thursday morning, Zink was "fired" from his position reading the morning announcements without being given a reason and says he "may be impeached" from his student leadership positions.
He says he feels that the school is silencing the voices of those who want to talk about decision.
"This is an example of how [The Pine Bush Central School District] would rather sweep an issue under the rug instead of having an open dialogue about it," he told MTV News. "The school is trying to silence people who speak out and we cant let that happen."
In the future, Zink said that the students in favor of the reading and further discussions of diversity at Pine Bush have made plans to meet up and discuss the events, and make their voices heard in a positive way.
"It was a little disappointing to see the amount of anti-Muslim sentiments and just this narrow view of what being an American is," Zink said. "But I was very happy to see there were just as many people who believed in diversity and love of other cultures and they have definitely been heard now."
Zink and his classmates are optimistic they will see a change in the culture of their school.
"I’m really just hoping to start a discussion about what being an American is, and what defines being an American," Zink said.
"[Wednesday's events] made me love that my class has so many diverse opinions, but I do believe we have a long way to go."
MTV News has reached out to the Pine Bush school district for comment.