School criticizes student's rendition of National Anthem

Shai sings the national anthem.
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Updated: .

Jennie Runevitch/Eyewitness News

Jan. 27 update: The school has apologized and will allow Shai to sing the National Anthem with 'artistic license.' See the update here. Original story below.

Bloomington - A student's rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner is causing controversy at a local high school. The school told her it was unrecognizable, disrespectful and should be sung in a more traditional way.

For two years, 16-year-old Shai Warfield-Cross has performed the national anthem Bloomington North High School. She puts her own spin on the Star-spangled Banner.

But now, her rendition is causing controversy. After Friday's home game against Martinsville, her family says the school told Shai because of complaints, she couldn't sing her version of the anthem again. The complaints alleged that it was unrecognizable, unacceptable and disrespectful to soldiers who died for our country.

"So we were flabbergasted. Like at North? Are you kidding me?" said Aurora Marin, Shai's stepmother.

YouTube video from Saturday shows Shai's performance the day after she was told by the assistant athletic director to sing in a more "traditional" way and not in "that way."

But Marin says Shai made no changes in the performance.

"Nothing different, you know, other than people's interpretation," said Marin.

The school's interpretation has her family fuming.

"That way and traditional way really indicates you're not traditional," said Marin. "So when you use traditional way and you attempted to indicate to her that she doesn't exemplify tradition? I'm questioning the leadership."

Her family says Shai emulated the style from her favorite artists like Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson. Shai's stepmom wrote a letter to the school asking for dialogue and an apology, but so far, school officials "haven't responded to the letter. Have not called us. Have not emailed us."

Eyewitness News contacted the high school to get their version of what happened. But we were told the principal didn't want to comment on the issue.

Shai's family says her artistic expression is being stifled, her diversity questioned and her freedom denied over the very song that symbolizes independence.

Shai doesn't plan to sing the anthem again until she gets an apology from school leaders.

The family's also encouraging supporters to wear black T-shirts at Bloomington North's home basketball game on Saturday and bring posters calling for Shai's version of the song to stay.

Watch the video.