A West Michigan school board has ordered the removal of a student’s mural after parents freaked out over some LGBTQ+ imagery included in the artwork.
Grant High School student Evelyn Gonzales painted the mural at the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School after winning an art contest.
The mural shows kids and animals wearing hats with red crosses on them. The kids have diverse skin colors and one wears a hijab. One girl in the mural wears rainbow colors. Another student wears a transgender flag shirt while getting a shot from a bunny nurse. And two kids wear the bisexual pride flag colors of pink, blue, and purple.
In the background are some symbols like a letter, stars, a peace sign, a mushroom, butterflies, and the Hamsa hand, also known as the Fatima hand, which is a symbol of good luck in North African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American cultures.
Last year, between 80 and 100 people attended a school board meeting to complain about the images. One person claimed the mural discriminated against Christians and that it was “hate material.”
“The meeting turned into a hate fest. Usually, there are 10 people at these meetings, 50 showed up. It wasn’t even about the mural,” one mother who defended the artwork told TODAY.com at the time. “People were talking about how we need to pray the gay away.”
Other parents complained about the presence of the Hamsa, claiming it was Satanic.
“I put my art up there to make people feel welcome,” Gonzales said at the time.
This past Monday, The Grant Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve a new contract with the operator of the health center, which is located inside the middle school. The contract stipulates that the clinic must remove the mural by the end of October, according to MLive.
The contract approval came after a contentious few months. In June, the board suddenly decided to end its contract with the clinic, citing “multiple concerns.” It did not mention the mural, nor did it share any details about what those concerns were.
But the community was outraged, as the clinic provides free health care for families in exchange for the school providing the space. So the board decided to reconsider, which led to this new contract.
A statement from the clinic operator, Family Health Care, expressed disappointment that they would be removing the mural.
“While it is disappointing that the mural must be removed by the end of October, it’s a compromise we reluctantly were willing to accept to ensure the children of the Grant community continue to have access to medical and behavioral health care,” the statement read.
The clinic said that during negotiations, “it was clear the mural was important to the Board of Education.”
“The student painted the mural to highlight inclusivity and diversity, values that are important to Family Health Care. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of everything we do at Family Health Care. As required by law, we are accepting of all students regardless of age, race, color, national origin, disability, religion, or sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity.”