Critics say mural depicting slavery, Native Americans at a San Francisco high school is offensive

At Washington High School, in San Francisco's Richmond District,  a large mural has been on the walls of the main entrance for 84 years.

The mural depicts George Washington in various points of his life. But some people say parts of the mural are offensive.

Those parts include depictions of African American slaves at Washington's home in Mount Vernon.

There is also a section showing white settlers stepping over the body of an American Indian. Some people say that's insulting.

"The images on the mural are troubling. People of color in the image are all either dead or in a subjugated position. As a district one of the things we have to consider is do we have buildings and art that reflect our values," said school board president Stevon Cook.

But others say the mural is art and should be preserved.

"I'm against censorship or removing any art. But once art is destroyed it is gone forever," said Barbara Bernstein founder of New Deal Art Registry, a website about art from the 1930's New Deal era.

The mural was drawn by an important artist named Victor Arnautoff. Supporters say the artists intent was not to promote or glorify slavery or the killing of Native Americans, but to show Washington in a different light. 

"It could be the source of a program. You can use it as a jumping off point to think about slavery, the massacre of Native Americans and the role of the artist," said Bernstein.   

"More and more we should be trying to use our curriculum, to share stories and find different ways to do that. I don't think the mural should be one of those things," said Cook.

The school district appointed a panel of students, artists and alumni to make recommendations on how to proceed.

It recommended removing or covering over only the offensive portions while keeping  the rest intact. Cook said he supports that idea.

The school board may not make any final decisions until the end of 2019.