San Francisco school board considers covering up mural that some find offensive and racist

A longstanding mural at San Francisco's  Washington High School is generating controversy and strong reactions about its future. 

The mural shows the life of George Washington at various stages of his life.

More than 100 people packed into the school board meeting on Tuesday night.

The controversial  mural is located inside the main entrance of  Washington High school has been there for more than eight decades.

 But opponents say they are offended by the images of black slaves at Washington's Mt. Vernon home. 

"It is a racist mural. My history should not be racist but it is. I came from slaves," said Virginia Marshall with the Alliance of Black School Educators.  She was among the dozens of speakers to address the school board.

Members heard one hour of public testimony from supporters and opponents to gather input before making a decision on the fate of the mural. 

Native Americans object to a panel showing white settlers stepping over the body of an American Indian. 

"Why do we have to explain the pain caused by visual offense that we see in that building that is supposed to be an institution of learning," said Mary Travis-Allen, a mural opponent. 

Those who want to preserve the mural say it was drawn  by artist Victor Arnautoff, not to glorify slavery or the killings of Native Americans, but to illustrate history.

"The mural tells us about the conquest and colonization of the United States including the genocide of native Americans. The mural reminds us that this nation is born of blood and gore," said Raoul Gonzales, a supporter. 

"We need to know our history...have it in our face," said Peggy Toye, also a supporter. 

"We should be teaching about the mural and what it means. I'm half native American.  I have no problem with the mural.  It depicts what happened," said Donna Parker

"It's not inside a museum. It's inside a school. Our students, all of them, deserve better," said Amy Anderson, an opponent who says her son is a student at Washington High. 

The school board will now consider three options in deciding the fate of the mural: covering it up with curtains, covering it with panels or painting over it. 

"We want to respect its age and comply with all the regulations associated with it.  It would take some time and funds to figure out the best way to go about each of the options," said Stevon Cook, San Francisco Unified school board president. 

The costs to cover or paint over the mural range from $375,000 to $825,000.  Officials say it's expensive because  each option requires an environmental impact report, along with the cost of labor and materials.   The school board is expected to make a decision on June 25.