Fort Vancouver High mural controversy spurs debate

School officials deciding whether to paint over artwork

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Controversy surrounding a student-created mural spray-painted onto the girls' softball dugout at Fort Vancouver High School last weekend is sparking debate in the community after some media attention.

When Crystal Wallace, the school's softball coach, asked students to paint artwork on the dugout, students painted shaded block letters to spell "Trapper," the name of the school's mascot. The students and coach were enthusiastic about the finished artwork, but they didn't realize they needed approval before the students started painting.

Now, school administrators are deciding whether to paint over the mural. Principal Scott Parker said he doesn't object to the student artwork, but he said the coach and students didn't follow district protocol to seek approval before the students started working.

"I don't think anyone's denying the quality of the mural," he said.

"(Wallace) meant well and was doing what she felt was right," Parker said. "But the reason we have protocol is to keep anyone from making changes to facilities."

Parker said he met with one of the student artists on Wednesday to talk to him about protocol. He encouraged the student to come up with another mural idea that he could share with officials before he started painting.

As of Thursday afternoon, the mural had not been painted over by the district, neither the students nor the coach had been reprimanded, and officials were still deciding what to do about the mural.

Nearly 1,500 people saw The Columbian's initial article about the mural on Facebook this week, and they had plenty to say about it.

"Street-tag style is not what I want to see in our community. Let the student draw something else and submit it and get recognized for following through," Adam Hegewald posted on the Columbian's website. "Everyone wants public buildings that contain art murals the public will appreciate."

Richard Lindsay posted: "And thus the kiddies get a lesson in dealing with ruthless authority and soul-crushing bureaucracy. Sad. I think they did a lovely job."

For several years, an athletic equipment storage unit at Heritage High School in the Evergreen school district has been decorated with similar graffiti-style student artwork that reads "Heritage Softball."