No Pink at Talent Show

By Rotschild, Matthew | The Progressive, July 2006 | Go to article overview

No Pink at Talent Show


Rotschild, Matthew, The Progressive


Molly Shoul has appeared in several talent shows at Park Springs Elementary School in Florida over the years.

And she was planning on participating again on May 11.

The ten-year-old decided to sing Pink's new song, "Dear Mr. President," which the pop star says is one of the most important songs she's ever written.

The biting song includes lines such as: "How do you sleep at night?" and "You don't know nothing about hard work" and "You pave the road to hell" and "What kind of father might hate her own daughter if she were gay?" and "You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine."

"It's a really good song," Molly says. "I wanted to sing something meaningful" for the annual talent show.

So she auditioned with it, and she says the music teacher told her he liked it, but that he would have to ask the principal.

The principal, Camille Pontillo, put the kibosh on it, as Jamie Malernee of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported.

Molly says the principal said the song was too political and would be inappropriate because it had the word hell in it, along with whiskey and cocaine and gay.

When that decision came down, Molly says she felt "a little bit angry and sad and upset, and a bit confused."

Her mother, Nancy, was all of that and more.

She wrote an e-mail to the principal on May 2, which she shared with The Progressive.

"I think we are sending a bad message," Nancy wrote. "Molly has become aware of world events and she was EXTREMELY excited to find this song and want to sing it. She is passionate about it--has been practicing it since the day the Talent Show was announced. With limits, I think our kids should be allowed to express themselves in a respectful, meaningful way. To try to 'shield' them from the real world is, I believe, a real mistake. Could I please get your feedback on this?"

Principal Pontillo responded in the following way: "I understand your position, however, the song she chose is a political song and does use the word hell in it. I am sure there are other songs that she can choose from that will allow her to express herself. We must remember that there are going to be students from pre-K to 5th--not just an older audience, such as middle school, or just 5th grade. I hope you understand."

On May 11, Molly chose not to participate in the talent show. She said it would have felt like giving up if she sang another song instead.

Her mom, who happens to be a high school teacher in the same school district, is not happy about the outcome.

"This was undoubtedly censorship," she says.

I left a message for Principal Pontillo, but she did not call back.

Nadine Drew, a spokesperson for the Broward County Public Schools, says, "It was the principal's decision that it was inappropriate for the elementary age group."

As to the charge of censorship, Drew says: "I don't have a reaction to the parent. …

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