Removal of white student’s anti-racism art display from library of Maine high school triggers schoolwide walkout
- A white Maine student’s artwork, featuring MLK Jr. alongside the text ‘Still Dreaming,’ was removed from her school’s library after parents complained
- White fists are painted under the line ‘One Nation’ on one side of the two-paneled piece – white hands holding up wallets are under ‘separated under God’
- Titled ‘This is America: Where racism is taught and your social status determines the education you receive,’ the piece was returned after the student walkout
- Claudia Corcoran, a York High School senior, gave the piece to the library in late September after painting it for a class project with the theme ‘This is America’
- The student’s principal told her to remove the art on September 28 when several parents complained that she was ‘forc[ing] her opinion on other students’
- ‘While we value all of our students, their voices, and their creativity… we understand not all perspectives are aligned,’ wrote Principal Karl Francis
- The work’s removal prompted outcry from students, parents and teachers
- ‘The art should not be hidden from sight… [children] should not be worried that [they] can’t submit similar work for fear of being bullied by extremist adults’
- Corcoran organized a student walkout the next day via Instagram, prompting the school to reconsider then reinstate the piece two days later
The removal of a white student’s anti-racism art project from a Maine high school sparked a student-led revolt that led to a walkout before the school put the exhibit back on display.
Claudia Corcoran, a senior at York High School, used imagery of Martin Luther King Jr. alongside the text ‘Still Dreaming’ for a project that tasked students with creating a topic inspired by a book.
She said her display was centered around the idea that the civil rights leader’s vision for true equity has yet to be achieved, according to Portsmouth Herald.
Shortly after the school’s library displayed her work, York’s principal told Corcoran that some parents felt she was ‘forc[ing] her opinion on others’ – and the piece was stowed away in a storage closet.
Instructed to create a project titled ‘This is America,’ York High School senior Claudia Corcoran devised the subtitle ‘where racism is taught and your social status determines the education you receive’
White fists are painted under the line ‘One Nation’ on one side of the two-paneled piece – white hands holding up wallets are under ‘separated under God’
The school, about 50 miles south of Portland, issued a statement defending its decision to take down her creation.
‘Displaying student work is foundational to providing students with an opportunity to learn from each other and to appreciate the work of others,’ Principal Karl Francis wrote in an email to parents.
‘At the same time, we understand not all perspectives are aligned.’
The administration said that the artwork was removed because the librarian did not get approval to display it. But in the past, librarians have been allowed to decide to hang student art without permission from school officials.
In a statement, Superintendent Lou Goscinski said that the student’s art isn’t an issue ‘but once we display it, it becomes the speech of the school.’
Corcoran then led a walkout from the school, which has about 575 students, last Wednesday, demanding the piece be returned.
Following the removal of her work, Corcoran staged a walkout last Wednesday, demanding that the school return the piece to York High School’s library
Parents in the community also took up her cause.
‘The art should not be hidden from sight, the student should not be shamed for creating it, and my child should not be worried that she can’t submit similar work for fear of being bullied by extremist adults,’ wrote Aaron Fontaine, the parent of a freshman at the school and the chair of the community’s anti-bias committee.
Two days later, Francis released a statement announcing Corcoran’s art will be put back on display.
Instructed to create a project titled ‘This is America,’ Corcoran devised the subtitle ‘where racism is taught and your social status determines the education you receive.’
Her display featured white fists painted under the line ‘One Nation’ on one side of the two-paneled piece – with white hands holding up wallets under ‘separated under God.’
Also featured is a quote from civil rights activist Ruby Bridges: ‘Racism is a grown-up disease and we should stop using our kids to spread it.’
Originally, Corcoran told the Herald she had just intended to create a strong portfolio piece for art school and get a good grade on her English class project – now, she said, she ‘feels [her] voice has been heard and… more seen by this community than [she] ever [has].’
Other students’ projects addressed Islamophobia and health concerns following 9/11, breakdancing, music therapy and Persian culture.
The school is planning to conduct an equity audit to further address internal issues.
The administration of York High School (pictured) said that the artwork was removed because the librarian did not get approval to display it. But in the past, librarians have been allowed to decide to hang student art without permission from school officials