Lucas Opgenorth wears tape across his mouth to protest censorship. He a large group of Ashland High School students and others were protesting the removal of a student created mural. - Jim Craven

Harry Potter and the Half-Blocked Print

Two hundred Ashland High School students gathered in front of Superintendent Juli Di Chiro's office on Siskiyou Boulevard Thursday to protest the administration's censorship of a mural infusing the Sistine Chapel's "Creation of Adam" with a Harry Potter theme.

"What's the problem with our bodies? He's not showing any naughties," the students chanted as they waved signs to honking motorists.

"Don't be a dope, it's good enough for the pope!"

"One, two, three, four, we support Dumbledore. Five, six, seven, eight, he can set our mural straight."

The class mural on the quad, painted by four student artists, featured fictional wizard Harry Potter as Adam (see correction note below), Dumbledore as God and other characters from the popular children's books as the cherubs. Over Potter's genitalia was painted a Golden Snitch, a magic ball with wings from the series. Principal Jeff Schlecht took down that portion of the mural the day it was hung, April 11.

Schlecht said last week that while he appreciates the students' artwork and effort, he must abide by school district policy that considers inappropriate any excessive bareness, whether in art, a video or at a football game.

"This is a public high school and I have to represent all perspectives in grades nine through 12," Schlecht said at the time. "My interpretation is that it was inappropriate."

Attempts to reach Schlecht and Di Chiro were unsuccessful Thursday. The four senior artists — Colette Paré-Miller, Alex Levine, Sage Trail and Djamika Smith — met with Di Chiro on Tuesday but were told to work it out with Schlecht, they said.

Earlier, Schlecht told them to put shorts on Potter, but they refused, calling it censorship. Another meeting of Schlecht and the artists is scheduled for today.

"We didn't expect any trouble with the mural," Paré-Miller said. "The administration initiated it. The school and the community really want this mural up. Any reasonable people would sit down and compromise."

AHS Dean of Students Glenna Stiles called the protest "awesome, because they're expressing their opinion in an appropriate way, one sanctioned by our system. We're cognizant that the students feel strongly about this."

Protest organizer Polly Greist, parent of a non-artist AHS student, called the censorship "very frustrating. We have to use our rights or lose them, and we live in an age where civil rights are eroding."

Greist said the disagreement between the students and administration has become "a battle of wills."

"It seems the sense of the administration is that the students are defying them and the administration is unwilling to back down," Greist said.

Pepper Trail, Sage's father, said he gathered more than 100 signatures protesting the mural panel's removal at Saturday's Earth Day celebration in Ashland. "We heard, as the No. 1 comment, that this is so ridiculous," he said.

"I'm really proud of them (artists). They did everything right, got the principal's approval and then he changed the rules. The underlying issue is that it's a masterpiece from the Sistine Chapel, which itself is uncensored. People said the kids haven't compromised but they did (by covering Potter with a Snitch)."

The artists' sketch had been chosen by a student committee and was presented to the AHS leadership class and to Schlecht, who at the time asked for a bigger Golden Snitch. The artists made it about the size of a baseball, but when the mural, made of four 4-by-8-foot wood panels, was hung up in full view, it didn't do the job, Schlecht said.

The artists say they won't compromise their art but may be willing to enlarge the Snitch further.

"We're the only ones who've compromised," Sage Trail said.

If no solution can be found with the school administration, Pepper Trail said parents and student would likely take the issue before the school board. Greist said it could possibly be taken to the State Board of Education as a civil rights issue.

"The school is not getting a lot of positive publicity out of this," said Greist. "Where can you turn when all other doors are shut?"

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

Correction: The original version of this story substituted an incorrect name for Adam. This version has been corrected.

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