A Pride mural created by a student was painted over by the church who owns the building of the school.
The LGBT Pride mural at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) in Hackensack, New Jersey, featured a love heart designed with the colours of the rainbow.
According to Garden State Equality, an advocacy and education organisation for the LGBT community in New Jersey, the mural was created by a 16-year-old student at the school and had been painted over after Holy Trinity Church, the school’s landlord, considered the rainbow heart to be ‘offensive’.
“It is offensive, unconscionable, and flatly unconstitutional for this church acting as a for-profit landlord to restrict a public school’s curriculum or censor student speech within those walls,” said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino.
“This type of hate-fueled bigotry is precisely why New Jersey needs LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to promote acceptance and understanding.”
The mural before and after. (Garden State Equality)
The organisation called for the school to restore the mural to show that hate and censorship were not welcome in New Jersey’s public schools.
Garden State Equality also said that a student informed them that the school had previously restricted free speech and education.
The organisation said that the school abolished a daily educational program in 2018 after complaints from the landlord. The program taught students about different historical figures, including many prominent LGBT figures during Pride Month.
They said the school had also made the school’s psychologist remove posters declaring their office a “safe space” for LGBT students.
“The school’s actions in destroying a student’s artwork is rank censorship and out of step with New Jersey values and our laws,” added Garden State Equality board member and former state bar president Thomas Prol, Esq.
“Decades ago, the United State Supreme Court held that students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.
“It is sadly ironic that an educational institution is now delivering a lesson in censorship to these students during their tender years.”
In January 2019, the state of New Jersey passed an ‘LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Law’, which will come into effect in the 2020-21 school year.
The law will require Boards of Education to include instructions and materials that accurately portray LGBT individuals.