Pledge of Allegiance
Bitter controversy has split the community of Pine Bush, New York, after the Pledge of Allegiance was read in Arabic at a regular morning assembly. Above, a U.S. military veteran during the Pledge of Allegiance during a Veterans' Day ceremony in Washington, D.C., Nov. 11, 2014. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A high school in Pine Bush, New York, apologized Thursday after the Pledge of Allegiance was read aloud in Arabic in a school gathering as part of National Foreign Language Week. The reading, which took place Wednesday morning, rapidly sparked controversy in the small community in upstate New York.

“We sincerely apologize to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful,” a statement posted Thursday on the school’s website said. “In our school district the Pledge of Allegiance will only be recited in English as recommended by the Commissioner of Education.”

The pledge was read in Arabic Wednesday during regular morning announcements, resulting in a furious backlash from students, parents and others in the community who were offended by the reading or considered it inappropriate. The school superintendent, Joan Carbone, said that residents in the district who had lost family in Afghanistan (where Arabic is not a national language) called to complain, as had Jewish parents.

“For somebody to use a language other than English to recite the pledge, that’s wrong,” said Andrew Brew, commander of the Pine Bush chapter of the American Legion, the Times Herald-Tribune reported. “We’re not overseas. It’s just wrong.”

Others supported the Arabic reading. A senior at the school, Miranda Monroe, told the Times Herald-Record that it was “wrong to discriminate – the whole thing is wrong.” Pine Bush’s senior class president, Andrew Zink, who agreed to allow the reading, said he was aware of the fallout that the reading would incite. “I knew many wouldn’t support it,” he said.

The statement from the school said the Pledge of Allegiance was read “in different languages this week” to “promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country.”

Pine Bush is a small hamlet in the towns of Crawford and Shawangunk, New York. It is about 85 miles north of New York City and had a population of 1,780 in 2010.