Eighth-graders' graduation victim of rock song flap

CLIFTON, N.J. -- Eighth-graders at the Sacred Heart School may have lost their graduation ceremony, but the flap over their choice of song has brought them offers from MTV and Sally Jessy Raphael.

The students voted for 'We Are the Champions' by the rock group Queen as their graduation anthem.


The Roman Catholic parochial school vetoed the choice, either because officials thought it was not appropriate for a religious ceremony or because Queen's lead singer, Freddy Mercury, was an avowed bisexual who died of AIDS.

The first explanation is the school's; the second that of students who charge that officials violated their right to freedom of expression.

The graduation was called off, and instead of enjoying a heady runup to a joyous ceremony, students have been dogged by reporters and TV camera crews.

On Monday, they witnessed the arrest of two activists from the radical AIDS-awareness group ACT UP, which protested the school's decision.

Parents were sent a letter explaining the school's reason for canceling Friday's graduation and a class trip.

Bo Blaze, a New Jersey music promoter, is trying to organize another trip for the students. He said he is backed by Spin magazine and by some local radio stations.


'We've tried not to take any political stance,' Blaze said. 'We've tried to stay right in the middle. We really think these are great kids, and they're standing up for what they believe in.'

In the meantime, Blaze said, the parents of the 19 eighth-graders are split, half thinking the students have the right to protest, the others wishing graduation could have proceeded peacefully, with or without 'We Are The Champions.'

Then Sally Jessy Rapahel offered to hold a graduation ceremony on her talk show. But only a handful of students have agreed to appear, and the graduation idea was dropped.

MTV, the rock video cable station, has invited the students to be in the audience Friday night for the taping of 'Hangin' with MTV.'

The song that caused the whole flap makes no mention of sex or AIDS.

'We Are the Champions' is a celebratory rock anthem that has been adopted by sports fans all over the country.

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