Administration removes insensitive mural


The girls locker room for the Schluntz Gymnasium was closed and the door was locked on Oct. 27. That day, custodians painted over the mural. PHOTO BY IZZY MEYERS/SAGAMORE STAFF

Haley Bayne and Sam Klein

A mural depicting several athletes was painted over on Tuesday, Oct. 27 after students told administrators that the depiction of an African-American girl was an offensive caricature.

In an announcement at the beginning of T-block on Tuesday, Nov. 10, Headmaster Deborah Holman explained the incident.

“Two weeks ago students brought to our attention an old cartoon-style mural depicting athletes that was located in the girls’ Schluntz locker room,” Holman said in the announcement. “The students found the mural offensive in the depiction of the female athletes, in particular the depiction of the African-American female athlete. I agreed, and we had the mural painted over.”

Holman made the executive decision to cover up the mural, which depicted three female athletes, after a meeting with three students on Tuesday, Oct. 27. According to Athletics Equipment Manager Marc Lofchie, a student painted the mural over a decade ago.

Holman said the custodial staff painted over the mural on the same day she met with the three students.

Junior DaHana Smith-Rose was one of the students who met with Holman about the mural. According to Smith-Rose, who is African-American, the caricature of the Black basketball player was racially offensive.

“She kind of looked like a monkey,” Smith-Rose said. “She had a really wide face and she looked really angry. She looked like a stereotypical ‘mad Black woman.’ It wasn’t sitting right with me, so I had to say something about it.”

“It wasn’t sitting right with me, so I had to say something about it,” —junior DaHana Smith-Rose

Holman said that the mural was insensitive.

“They were not images that I thought represented BHS athletes the best,” Holman said. “I agreed that the one was an offensive image.”

Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason said that nobody had previously approached him or Holman about the mural.

“The basketball team, the field hockey team, the volleyball team have all been in there,” Mason said. “Nobody has said anything to us. None of the coaches and none of the teams.”

According to senior Alicia Landry, who is African-American and has played girls varsity basketball since she was a sophomore, everybody on the team was aware of the mural’s presence.

“For me, when it was my first time on varsity, and everyone else in the group is down there, and they’re all chill with it, it’s kind of hard to be the one person to have a response to it when it’s so widely accepted,” Landry said.

Holman said she thinks students’ and teachers’ comfort in sharing their opinions about the mural shows improvements in race conversations at the high school.

“If we have a collective raised awareness on the part of faculty and students, and in this case, students, where they’re seeing things more in focus and questioning what they’re seeing and then they’re bringing it to the headmaster, deans, and teachers, is a good thing,” Holman said.

Junior Melanie Tavares Rodrigues, who is West African and Portuguese, said that there are still race problems at the high school, and topic of race should be discussed in new forums.

“There’s a lot of stereotypes here at the school of Black people and people of color. That needs to be addressed,” Tavares Rodrigues said. “We can’t fit this all into one day of assemblies. It needs to be in our curriculum. We touch on Black History Month for a good week or two, but that’s all. We need more of that type of education.”