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Parents express anger after Cedarburg school covers up diversity mural, school apologizes

The mural is now uncovered
Diversity Mural at Webster Middle School
Posted at 4:46 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 18:57:12-04

CEDARBURG — A mural created to promote diversity inside of a Cedarburg school is catching a lot of attention from parents and students alike.

The Student Acceptance Team at Webster Middle School in Cedarburg was started about three years ago as a way to promote diversity and inclusivity in the school community.

"One of the projects they wanted to do this past school year was to create and design a mural that celebrated people from all walks of life," said former Webster Middle School Band Director and Student Acceptance Team Adviser Katherine Myszewski.

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As the school year wrapped up and the mural was near completion, Myszewski said there were concerns raised about the artwork.

"The mural had prior approval by administration, but I was approached by our principal saying this mural is too LGBTQ+," Myszewski said.

She said the group was asked to cover up some of the Pride flags in the mural, but she and the students didn't feel that was the right thing to do.

However, when summer came, the mural was hidden behind white paper.

mural covered at Webster Middle School

"It's been very hurtful for the kids," said parent Ruth Barratt.

Barratt's son is transgender and part of the student group that designed the mural.

"These are kids that more than any other kid needs to feel that they are accepted and part of the community. The suicide rate among transgender and lesbian and gay children is incredibly high," Barratt said.

On Wednesday, the school posted on its Facebook saying the mural was covered "because Webster hosts 1000+ students (mostly elementary-aged) for Summer Academy and there are ongoing conversations across the district regarding what is developmentally appropriate for our younger learners."

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But after hearing feedback from students and parents, on Thursday the school said the mural has been uncovered.

The school also apologized in a statement that said in part, "Cedarburg School District, like many districts in Wisconsin and across the nation is engaging in conversations within the local community to determine how to best represent and show support for diverse student populations. The outpouring of support for our mural and students is inspiring. As a district, school, and community, that is extremely reassuring, but we have room to grow and we will work to do better."

When Barratt learned the mural was uncovered she said it was great news to hear, but still believes the district has work to do.

"This is just one small part of a much larger picture within the district unfortunately and they need to do a lot more to make kids feel accepted," Barratt said.

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