Garden State Equality Condemns Erasure of Student’s LGBTQ Pride Mural in Hackensack Public School Over Church Objections

Church has extended history of censoring curriculum and student speech on LGBTQ Issues within the school

This week, an LGBTQ pride mural created by a student at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) was painted over following complaints by the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church, who called the rainbow heart “offensive”. BASCS is a public school that is privately run as a charter school.

Garden State Equality was informed by the student, a sixteen year old high school junior at BASCS, that the school has a long history of restricting education and censoring faculty and students’ speech within the school.

Following complaints by the landlord in 2018, the school abolished a long-running daily educational program, which taught students about a unique historical figure each day, after the school included LGBTQ figures during Pride Month. Additionally, the school’s psychologist was forced to remove a poster supportive of LGBTQ students. The poster was signed by faculty and students and merely declared the office a “safe space” for LGBTQ students to enter for support.

New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Law, passed in January 2019, will take effect in the 2020-2021 school year, and as a public school, BASCS would be required to implement the law.

“It is offensive, unconscionable, and flatly unconstitutional for this church acting as a for-profit landlord to restrict a public school’s curriculum or censor student speech within those walls. This type of hate-fueled bigotry is precisely why New Jersey needs LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to promote acceptance and understanding,” said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino. “Garden State Equality will never back down from fighting for LGBTQ youth, and we call on the Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to restore the artwork and enhance its curriculum to teach its students that hate and censorship are not welcome in New Jersey’s public schools.”

“The school’s actions in destroying a student’s artwork is rank censorship and out of step with New Jersey values and our laws. Decades ago, the United State Supreme Court held that students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’” said Garden State Equality board member and former state bar president Thomas Prol, Esq. “It is sadly ironic that an educational institution is now delivering a lesson in censorship to these students during their tender years.”