Two security guards at the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Manhattan are facing criticism after telling a group of middle school students who were singing the National Anthem to stop.
The incident occurred when a group of about 50 students from the Waynesville Middle School chorus traveled from North Carolina to New York City on an educational trip. The group was singing outside of the memorial in an effort to pay respect to those who died when two guards asked them to stop partway through their performance.
"Some of the students were very upset and confused," Martha Brown, the music teacher at Waynesville Middle School in Waynesville, North Carolina told the NY Post. "I told the children, âThis is a place where you need to respect authority even if you don't understand it.'"
Brown said that she did understand why the security guards asked them to stop, using the incident as a teachable moment for the students about respecting authority. She said she told students the rules existed in order to protect the sacred space from those who may wish to disrespect it.
While singing is allowed at the memorial, it is only approved after the purchase of a $35 non-refundable permit which lets the holder sing for a total of 15 minutes so long as it is on "one designated day in the spring, summer and fall provided that there is no sound amplification and the group is smaller than 50 people."
While the school chorus did not have a permit, they did say they obtained a verbal okay from one of the security guards, reports Michelle Charlesworth for ABC7 News.
"Basically, they performed approximately half of the National Anthem, and they were told by security to cease and desist," Waynesville Middle School principal Trevor Putnam said. "And they, of course, complied immediately." He added that security "explained to them that they treat that (area) as a burial site."
A video of the incident was posted to Facebook by an adult on the trip and was immediately shared over 1,000 times, gaining a slew of comments and over 375,000 views so far. A number of viewers believe the students should have been allowed to finish their performance. As a result of the post, the group was invited to sing the National Anthem live on Fox News. Both Brown and Putnam joined the students for their performance at the school.
While Putnam said he was upset that the students did not get to finish, he added how proud he was that the students made their mark on New York City as they do everywhere they go.
Kaylee Skaar, a spokesperson for the memorial, commented on the situation, saying the guards did not act appropriately and that all performances are welcome at the memorial. Nothing has been said concerning whether the guards faced any disciplinary measures.
Putnam said he received a personal call from the head of the memorial that included an apology for the incident and an invitation to the students to return to the site.