A school in New York state has issued an apology for reading out the US Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic.
District residents complained about the practice of reciting the 31-word pledge, which promises loyalty to the American flag, as well as the republic and its values, in the foreign tongue.
District Superintendent Joan Carbone told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown that she had received complaints from residents who lost relatives in the Afghanistan War and from Jewish parents.
The Arabic reading of the pledge has "divided the school in half," she told the newspaper.
Angry students at Pine Bush High School, located 65 miles (105 kilometres) northwest of New York City, responded with catcalls when the pledge was read out during a Wednesday morning announcement.
The district said the school's foreign language department arranged to have the pledge recited in different languages for National Foreign Language Week, which was last week.
Andrew Zink, the senior class president, usually gives the morning announcements and recites the pledge. He said he allowed an Arabic-speaking student to handle the pledge duties on Wednesday.
"The intention was to promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country," the district said in its statement.
The principal made a building-wide announcement on Wednesday afternoon to explain the reading's context and apologize to students who took offense to its being recited in Arabic. In a statement posted on the district's website, officials said they apologised "to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful".
Carbone said the pledge will be read in English only from now on. A state Department of Education spokesman said there's no state requirement to recite the pledge in English.
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations questioned the school's justification for an apology.
"When a simple student activity designed to promote mutual understanding receives such a negative reaction and the school in which it takes place is forced to issue a public apology, all Americans who value our nation's history of religious and ethnic diversity should be concerned," said council spokeswoman Sadyia Khalique.
Additional reporting by Associated PressReuse content