School officials tight-lipped about mural controversy
A media sandstorm swirled late last week as word got out that Warwick had its own school mural controversy. This time the subject matter wasn’t a prayer banner, but instead a student-painted mural at Pilgrim High School that depicted a married couple with wedding bands floating above their heads.
Yesterday a Beacon reporter visited the school but was denied access to the mural. Administrators at the school were about to enter a late-afternoon meeting regarding the mural, and despite sitting with the reporter for nearly an hour, were not prepared to release an official statement at the time of the visit.
The media blitz of last week surrounded Pilgrim junior Liz Bierenday, who was chosen by school administrators to paint a mural that depicted the growth and “evolution” of a student on a hallway wall. Pilgrim’s Assistant Principal Donald Miller approved a sketch of the painting.
But last week, a complaint made by an adult at the school caused Pilgrim administration to question whether the wedding rings would promote specific religious practices, and a school administrator made the decision to paint over that section of the mural.
That decision sparked a media frenzy that included televised interviews of Bierenday. Bierenday also appeared on John DePetro’s WPRO talk show and said she felt the decision to paint over her work was “ridiculous.”
Bierenday, who spoke with an assistant principal about the changes made to her mural, was reportedly going to make a decision over the weekend whether or not she would continue with her original idea. Some sources say she has crafted another idea that would scrap the wedding rings, while others report she will stick with the original plan.
Warwick school Superintendent Peter Horoschak issued a statement last week that voices his support of Bierenday’s original idea.
“Pilgrim High School students have participated in many events in which the acceptance of all cultures and lifestyles are studied and celebrated,” said Horoschak in a statement. “It is also a school community with great compassion for others as was expressed by the students, faculty and parents when two young students were killed in an automobile accident at the beginning of this school year.”
Horoschak said he thinks the school and Bierenday will come to an “agreeable conclusion.”