Texas School Paints Over Star Spangled Mural After One Homeowner Complained

CBS4 Screenshot
CBS4 Screenshot

If it was not enough that the mere display of the United States flag hurt students’ feelings at a University of California campus, the mere likeness to the flag was cause for controversy at a Texas public school where the Red, White and Blue offended the surrounding neighborhood’s sense of aesthetics. “The developer told us that he had one homeowner complain about the colors,” said Canutillo Independent School District (ISD) spokesman Rene Leon in a CBS4 interview.

At the Silvestre and Carolina Reyes Elementary School, which is under construction in El Paso’s Canutillo ISD, the problem was quickly solved — they painted over Old Glory.

On March 6, KTSM 9 reported that the district’s Board of Trustees met to address what steps to take next in the ongoing brouhaha. Canutillo ISD spokesman Shane Griffith shared a letter in which Cimarron neighborhood residential developer, Hunt Communities, stated that they had wanted the flag painted over because it did not fit in with the home owners association’s color scheme.

There was even an approved list of Sherwin Williams colors for residents to adhere to and unless “otherwise approved” Hunt Communities had final say if a color was in or out. Apparently, red, white and blue were not on the color wheel.

Hunt proved that the Stars and Stripes were not forever. The formerly Star Spangled wall is now a bright burnt orange monolith with the promise of decorative white stars being added at some point.

Previously, Griffith acknowledged that the “stars and waves of the impressions” of the mural pattern embossed into the wall were “nevertheless recognizable to everyone who views them” and stated that it was a “natural suggestion to paint them red, white and blue.”

The letter from Hunt claimed that the flag’s likeness possibly violated the rules regarding how the US flag should be handled and displayed,” the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.

Included in these newly named possible US Flag code infractions were that the wall’s proportions may not have been in line with flag dimensions and that the mural imprint had an improper number of stars and stripes. Also, the image appeared to touch the ground.

Not everyone has been thrilled with the recoloring. Canutillo ISD board president Laure Searls told KVIA 7 it was met with “tears and shocked faces.” She said, “There was a lot of emotion. There was drama, as you could expect. We’re a really big veteran community.”

KDBC 4 reported that the patriotic mural was supposed to be a tribute to the school’s namesake, former El Paso congressman and Vietnam War veteran Silvestre Reyes for his service in the House of Representatives and the US military. 

In January, the Avalanche-Journal reported that school district claimed that neither the stars nor the stripes were part of the wall’s original design. They were added only because Reyes asked Canutillo School District officials if the wall could be painted red, white and blue.

Last month, KTSM 9 reported that school board member Adrian Medina wrote on his Facebook page, “”We will continue to work with community members, veterans groups and business leaders to ensure that our efforts to honor our active military and veteran members’ service to our country including that of Canutillo alumni and former US Congressman Silvestre Reyes are realized.”

This debacle started in 2011 when Hunt Communities put in a covenant for its Cimarron Community charter, called the Cimarron Color Palette, which was “intended to complement and blend with the natural landscape colors of El Paso,” also according to KVIA 7.

School district spokesman Rene Leon claimed that the mural had not been approved by the Cimarron Home Owners Association (HOA) and that project officials “wanted to see a real-life mock up” so only a portion of the wall was painted patriotically at the district’s expense of $3,500.

KTSM 9 reported this a little differently, citing district documents that said that school board was informed that the American flag’s red, white and blue colors actually were in violation of of its agreement with the Cimarron HOA and would have to be removed.

While resident Denis Larsen told the Avalanche-Journal that he thought it was good for school kids to see the mural “to show them what a great country they live in,” another neighbor, Aridna Segura, whose backyard backed up to the campus, thought otherwise.  He said that the flag did not match the neighborhood’s thematic colors.

According to the district, burnt orange was the school’s original wall color of choice.

“I saw it didn’t take long to paint over the American flag to burnt orange. I know my children won’t be using this school and others on our street. Such a shame to change the American Flag,” a neighborhood resident wrote on the Canutillo ISD Facebook page. She indicated that she lived directly across the street from the school site.

The school board is not pleased either. Searls also told KVIA 7 that the wall cost over a million dollars out of their budget to comply with Hunt’s covenants. “And that wasn’t easy to do,” she said, adding that it set the district back financially.

In February, Hunt presented a $10,000 peace offering to the school district, a donation for which they suggested Canutillo ISD put towards a flag pole on which to raise an American flag. The district had already budgeted in and purchased that item last year, according to KTSM 9.

Searls and five other board members rejected Hunt’s perceived consolation prize. KVIA 7 asked Searles if there was a chance the board would accept those dollars and put them towards another project, perhaps the veteran’s memorial stadium, which the district intends to build in the future. Searls said “no.”

Hunt now claims that they are willing to work with the school district if more than 50 percent of the Cimarron Community residents approve the project and “if the school board submits a proposed design and gets confirmation of compliance from the US Department of Veteran Affairs, or similar agency,” also according to KTSM 9.

The 800-acre master-planned housing tract was first announced by Hunt Communities in 2007.  The El Paso Times reported that this 21st Century environmentally and pedestrian friendly neighborhood features “harmonized home and commercial exteriors and a trail system connecting to parks, arroyos and other open spaces.” They also boast walking and biking trails in lieu of sidewalks in some areas as well as elements of “new urbanism” and “smart growth”.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.


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