SAN FRANCISCO—Student leaders at San Ramon High School made the decision to ban the national anthem from pep rallies, citing racially offensive words used in the third verse of the song. In an open letter, the Associated Student Body claimed that the decision was made as a gesture of inclusion.

The wording includes the stanza that reads: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave/And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave.”

San Ramon, a city that is 34 miles east of San Francisco has drawn sharp backlash, bewilderment, and support in response to the decision. President of the Associated Student Body, Ariyana Kermanizadeh, stands by her school’s decision, stating that it was only once she and other students learned about the third verse that they decided to take action.

“It was brought to our attention that the national anthem’s third verse is outdated and racially offensive,” Kermanizadeh wrote in an open letter. “We had nothing but good intentions by removing the song so that we could be fully inclusive to our student body.”

Elizabeth Graswich, Director of Communications for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, issued a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, in which she stressed “creating  school culture that is welcoming to all students.”