A controversial high school mural will be covered-up, either with paint or paneling.
The San Francisco Unified School District school board voted 6-0 Tuesday night, to remove the artwork at George Washington High School from view.
"I don't want another student who doesn't have to see them, to see them," said Supt. Vincent Matthews, speaking to a capacity crowd at the board chambers.
Vincent said he is heartsick when he views the 86-year-old mural. It consists of 13 panels covering 1600 square feet, and was painted when the school opened.
The scenes depict the life of namesake President George Washington, and among the historical images are slaves picking cotton and settlers stepping over a fallen Native American.
"People have said 'Oh we used to meet under the dead Indian', as if that's a reason we should keep it," said school board member Alison Collins.
The school board has been grappling with the mural for months.
"I will be voting to take it down," said school board member Gabriella Lopez, expressing support for painting over it completely.
The board directed staff to determine which method could be accomplished faster, paint or the installation of acoustic paneling over the mural.
Mural supporters - including artists, historians, and alumni- have said they'll sue to block destruction of the Depression-era frescoes.
"If people don't want to see unpleasant or potentially disturbing images, they should just stop studying history altogether," said Toby Reese of the World Socialist Web Site.
Reese and others who spoke noted the left-wing Russian artist who painted the mural was criticizing - not glorifying - Washington and colonial oppression.
"Those murals are our visual history that genocide was there. It shows it, and we shouldn't erase it," said one man, who was in favor of keeping the mural intact.
But the board agreed with mural opponents: That the artists' intentions don't mitigate harm to students.
"Please help it stop, paint it down, no cover-ups," implored one tearful speaker.
"It's not a matter of censorship, it's a matter of human rights," said Paloma Flores, SFUSD Indian Program Coordinator, "and it's the right to learn without a hostile environment."
Critics say the images belong in museums or textbooks but not on a school wall.
"I went to school every day, and had to look at the mural and it did not speak to me, it was wrong, it was dehumanizing," said a 2010 Washington High graduate who gave her name as Tiffany.
The meeting - like others before - had dueling camps and high emotions.
But finally, a decision, although it's will likely face a legal challenge.
"If we have to go to court, then we have to court," board member Faauuga Moliga said to applause.
The board admitted there are no designated funds for litigation, or to do the actual work.
The cost for paint or paneling is about the same: $600,000 and up, depending on design and materials, plus the environmental review process required by law.
"That money should be spent on teachers," said mural supporter Steve Zeltzer of the United Public Workers.for Action.
"We should be building a Native American Cultural Center at the school and every student should be required to go to that, to understand the mural and the history."
Because of the environmental certification necessary, it will be at least a year before any changes begin on campus.