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School Backtracks After Banning Student's Mural Depicting 'Traditional Marriage


"the depiction...may not represent the life experiences of many of the students at Pilgrim High School."

A student mural at Pilgrim High School in Warwick, Rhode Island, was reportedly deemed inappropriate and banned by a public high school due to its depiction of a man, woman and child holding hands. The couple, clearly engaged in a straight, monogamous relationship, are seen standing with what appears to be their child.

Was there something else more sinister presented in the painting, you ask -- an offensive message or an inappropriate character attribute? According to news reports, the school painted over this portion of the mural out of fear that it would offend people who live alternative lifestyles.

WPRO is reporting that the mural was intended to depict the life of a man. Liz Bierendy, the 17-year-old who painted it, explained that it signified the man's marriage and the raising of his child with the woman (marriage and the raising of children are common experiences for millions of men in America and across the globe).

Following the uproar over the image, Warwick Public Schools' superintendent Peter Horoschak stepped in. In a press release, he explained that "some of the members of the Pilgrim High School community suggested that the depiction of a young man’s development from boyhood through adulthood as displayed may not represent the life experiences of many of the students at Pilgrim High School." WPRO continues:

According to the release, the assistant principal approached the Bierendy after the concern was raised from the school and “asked her to look at other ways to show the outcome of the subject’s progression to adulthood.”

After consulting other administrators, Superintendent Horoschak asked the assistant principal to meet with the student again and discuss her views on the proposed changes to the mural. The assistant principal reported that the student “preferred the original idea” however she “would take the weekend to think about any changes to the original sketch.” Horoschak asked that the Bierendy’s ideas be respected and “that she be allowed to finish the mural as she visualized it.”

The Providence Journal corroborates this story, reporting that Bierendy "would be allowed to paint what she originally envisioned."'s Tina Korbe penned a piece for The New York Post in which she railed against the debacle, writing:

This is what multiculturalism has come to: A student artist who proposed a mural for a Rhode Island high school came under heavy pressure to change her design because it upheld the ideal of traditional marriage. [...]

...the reaction to Bierendy’s mural underscores society’s alarming tendency to adjust standards to fit the way we live, rather than adjust the way we live to fit standards.

My first thought when I read about Bierendy was of the elephant-dung-smeared image of the Virgin Mary that once hung in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. When Christians complained, the common refrain was, “What’s the matter? It’s just art.” One might ask Bierendy’s critics now: “What’s the matter? It’s just art.”

In the end, the student will be able to complete the project with her original vision in mind. School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Furtado has joined in to say that the order to paint over the traditional marriage portion of the artwork should have never happened.


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