CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — Murals in a Tennessee school gym have been modified to remove Confederate flags after school district officials received complaints.
A school administrator gave the maintenance department orders to modify the murals at South Cumberland Elementary School, according to media reports.
A Tullahoma resident said he’d complained about the murals at South Cumberland Elementary School since mid-December with no resolution, so he posted pictures of them on social media and asked others to call the school system, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
“They are both in one public school elementary gym where all the children go to play every day,” David Clark said in the post. “Germany does not display Nazi symbols. This is not heritage, it is racism.”
Jane Franklin, assistant to Cumberland County Schools Director Janet Graham and the school board, said Graham gave the maintenance department orders to “fix” the murals on Monday, and as of Friday, they had been modified.
One mural was a large Confederate battle flag; South Cumberland’s mascot is a “rebel.” Franklin said that flag was painted over and may ultimately be repainted as a Tennessee state flag rather than a Confederate flag.
A second mural depicted a man carrying a Confederate flag standing between an eagle and a tree. A Caucasian-toned figure in a blue outfit was hanging by his jersey from a tree branch. Nearby is a covered wagon, from which is hanging a white flag.
The mural was intended to represent South Cumberland’s main sports rival, the North Cumberland Patriots, Franklin said. Mascots from other area schools — such as an eagle and a tiger — also are in the mural.
Franklin said the branch from which the figure is hanging has been painted over with white clouds, and an artist will later paint something underneath the Patriot’s feet, so it will appear he’s standing on the ground. In addition, the Confederate flag has been painted solid red and may later be a Tennessee flag, she said.
Franklin couldn’t say how long the mural had been up but said the director had only recently received complaints.
“It’s been there a long time,” Franklin said. “I’d say most people don’t even notice it.”
On social media Friday, the comments were overwhelmingly in favor of leaving the mural as-is, the Knoxville newspaper reported.
The school’s website states the district’s policy is “to provide an environment free of discrimination and harassment of an individual because of that person’s race, color, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, religion, creed, disability or any other category protected by state and/or federal law.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Cumberland County’s racial makeup is 96 percent white.