Guard was wrong to silence school choir, 9/11 Memorial says

People walk near the 9/11 memorial in Exchange Place, New Jersey September 10, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A security guard who stopped a middle-school choir from singing the national anthem at the September 11 memorial in Manhattan acted inappropriately and the students are welcome to come back and sing the anthem, a memorial official said on Monday.

Fifty-one choral students led by their teacher from Waynesville Middle School in North Carolina started signing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the National September 11 Memorial in New York last week when a security guard stopped them because they lacked the required permit to perform.

The sixth- to eighth-graders, who generally range in age from 11 to 14, stopped immediately, even though another security guard had orally granted them permission.

Although the rules require a permit, which takes 10 business days to process and carries a $35 fee, it was still appropriate for middle-school students to sing the national anthem at the site, where more than 2,700 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a spokeswoman for the 9/11 Memorial said.

“The guard did not respond appropriately,” spokeswoman Kaylee Skaar said. “We are working with our security staff to ensure that this will not happen again. We reached out to the school to express our regret for how this was handled and asked the principal to share that with the students.”

Skaar said the choir was welcome to return to sing the national anthem, as many groups have done. Waynesville Middle School Principal Trevor Putnam said it would be difficult during the school year as the students have already returned to North Carolina.

The next choral group to visit New York will get a permit to sing at the memorial, he said.

“This was a good civics lesson. Why are there limits put in place in public forums?” Putnam said. “I was really proud of our kids. They were asked to stop and did so respectfully.”

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Leslie Adler