Community members and politicians are outraged after vandals spray-painted “All Lives Matter Not Just Black” on the sidewalk of PS 295 in Park Slope on Sept. 27, following the school’s decision to remove a mural celebrating the LGBTQ community.
Over the summer, the Daily News reported that administrators — including principal Lisa Pagano; superintendent Anita Skop; and Frank Giordano, the principal of the neighboring New Voices Middle School — were not on board with a student-led mural at PS 295 at 330 18th Street.
The mural included messages such as “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Your Silence Will Not Protect You,” but officials claimed it was not “welcoming” or “inclusive.” Giordano felt “attacked” by a quote from Audre Lorde, according to the Daily News, and Pagano — with Skop’s approval — sought to replace the mural with a vague “hate has no home here” message.
In response, angry parents chalked “BLM” on the sidewalk to protest the school’s decision, prompting retaliatory messages. According to images obtained by Brooklyn Paper’s sister paper Gay City News, vandals then defaced the sidewalk with messages such as “All Lives Matter Not Just Black.” In another statement, the perpetrators scribbled “Domestic Terrorists” alongside the slogan “BLM.”
Allyssa Lamb, a parent of a third-grader at PS 295, said the vandalization added fuel to an already controversial situation.
“It was a shock,” Lamb told Gay City News. “To see pastel sidewalk chalk pasted over in black with a racist slogan was unsettling because it’s right in front of the school where our kids go.”
Lamb also said administrators were slow to remove the disruptive phrases before children saw it.
“It’s keeping with how they’ve been responding to everything. There has been poor communication between parents and the administration, and I feel like they are trying to lay low and avoid dealing with it.”
Lamb, who has an older child who is transgender, blasted Pagano for wanting to remove messages about Black and transgender individuals.
“It really spells out exactly how she feels,” Lamb said. “She feels uncomfortable with naming the Black community and the trans community, and I find it really out of step with the students and the families at the school.”
She added, “I feel the administration is from another world, and they are not keeping up.”
In the wake of the incident, out gay City Councilmember Daniel Dromm of Queens ripped the school’s action as “avoidable.”
“It’s disgraceful,” Dromm told Gay City News. “It’s discriminatory. The principals and the superintendent should resign or be removed from their positions.”
Dromm called on the Department of Education (DOE) to look into this incident.
“It’s particularly disheartening that they are not listening to the parents’ concerns who are supportive of the mural,” he said, referring to the school. “As for the graffiti that is outside, of course, that is going to happen when you allow the removal of the mural to occur. The DOE needs to be clear that the removal of the mural is in violation of the law.”
On September 29, out gay Councilmember Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn and the Mural Justice Project, an advocacy group created in response to the controversy, led a virtual town hall to hold administrators accountable for removing the artwork.
A DOE spokesperson said in a written statement that school safety is investigating the incident and they are working with a local NYPD precinct.
“Every student deserves a safe, welcoming space to learn, and in no uncertain terms, we condemn the defacing of sidewalks around the school,” the DOE spokesperson told Gay City News. “We are assisting the schools to come to a resolution, convening mediations, and will take disciplinary action as appropriate following the outcome of the investigation.”
This article first appeared in Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Gay City News.