GRANT, Mich. (WOOD) — A mural painted over the summer at Grant Middle School has become a flashpoint in the community, with some parents declaring it unfit for a public school at a board meeting earlier this week.
The mural was created by a high school junior who won an art contest, the prize of which was the chance to put her work on the wall of the Child and Adolescent Health Center inside the middle school.
Lori Donati, who works at the clinic, coordinated the contest and was thrilled with the result, including the gay and transgender pride symbols that Donati says the young artist painted because she has friends who have been bullied because of their sexuality.
“Everyone’s accepted at our clinic,” Donati said. “What she (the artist) was trying to say (is that) everyone’s accepted no matter what your background is or who you are. You are loved and accepted and that’s exactly our philosophy with our office, too.”
But some parents objected to the flags and a demon-like face drawn from a video game character. They want the mural painted over. Parents opposed to the mural declined to state their names when speaking to News 8 Friday. They said they’ve been harassed online by those who disagree with their viewpoint.
The parents, who wanted to speak as a group, gathered in a circle to pray before sharing their opinions with News 8.
“We just want a neutral place for our kids,” one said. “We don’t want our kids being politicized.”
They argued the mural is divisive. They would not provide their specific objections to LGBTQ symbols, though they said they have caused division among students.
“Our kids should have neutral places where everybody feels loved and accepted and there doesn’t need to be anything on the wall that causes any sort of division,” one said.
They argued the mural was representative only of students who identify as LGBTQ, though some of the figures in it don’t have any pride symbols.
“You used the world all-inclusive,” one parent said. “That’s not all-inclusive. That painting would have to be huge.”
They said the painting does not belong in a school.
“Everybody suggested putting it in ArtPrize,” one parent said. “That’d be great. It could go anywhere but it shouldn’t be in our public school.”
Between 80 and 100 people attended Monday’s school board meeting, the vast majority of whom were there to voice their objections to the mural and request its removal.
Donati said the parents, who she described as part of a tiny group of very vocal conservative Christians, have “misinterpreted” the student’s art.
“She just wanted to include everybody, which is what our office does, and that didn’t happen,” Donati said. “(The parents who objected) made it very negative and all of us were upset. It was very attacking.”
She said the clinic’s full support is behind the student artist.
In a statement released Thursday, Grant Public Schools said the mural will stay, though there would be some adjustments. Some symbols, like the video game character, will be removed because they were not part of the original submission. The artist added them to fill in empty spaces.
But the LGBTQ flags were in the original, which Donati said was approved by administration, so it appears the flags will remain.
“At Grant Public Schools, we are committed to promoting civility, respect, understanding and inclusion,” the district’s statement read in part. “We do not condone, and we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or bullying whether in word, deed or on social media.”