Students redesign hand wall after controversy


Mary Hardy

Adding the final touches to the senior mural, senior Bailey Goughenour finishes painting the second design that her and senior Natalie Butler created. After the first design fell through, the artists came together to come up with the ‘Dream Big’ design. “It was just a lot of stress, and it was just really disappointing because we had been cleared. For him to come back and say it’s not anymore was just really sad and hurtful,” Goughenour said. “But after we were turned down, me and Natalie got together, and we were like, ‘what can we do to make this be good?’ We just started brainstorming, and we came up with a new design.”

By Mary Hardy, Parkway West High School

When seniors Natalie Butler and Bailey Goughenour found out that their design for the senior hand wall in the cafeteria had won over the hearts of 75% of the senior class, they were excited because they thought the design was clever and relevant.

However, shortly after, assistant principal Corey Sink received an anonymous complaint about the design looking like a white supremacist or gang symbol, which led to a complete redesign. The initial wall used the OK sign as the 19 in 2019 and said: “made you look.”

“We talked about it administratively and, to be quite honest, there were some adults who had concerns. We didn’t want their original intent to be taken out of context by anyone. So that’s where the concern of the adults came from,” Sink said. “The OK symbol has become a symbol for some other movement that we don’t necessarily agree with.”

Trying to avoid problems, while keeping the school’s best interests at heart, Sink decided to ask the senior artists to come up with a new design.

“I just went to them and I said here’s the deal, here’s the concern. I talked to both girls, and their moms, and said here’s our concern.  I proposed we come up with an alternate design, so that’s what they did. But they did have the winning design, and I wasn’t going to put it back out there for somebody else, this was their wall,” Sink said.

Honestly, it was just kind of a hassle to have to redesign the whole thing, so I was feeling frustration. It takes time to design that and I don’t have a lot of time as it is. It was also frustrating that one email kind of derailed something that the whole class wanted.”

— senior Natalie Butler

After having received the news, Butler had mixed emotions.

“Honestly, it was just kind of a hassle to have to redesign the whole thing, so I was feeling frustration. It takes time to design that and I don’t have a lot of time as it is. It was also frustrating that one email kind of derailed something that the whole class wanted, not because it has to do with white supremacy, but because it’s a symbol that pretty much everyone knows as a little game that everyone plays,” Butler said. “I was just annoyed with the whole thing because honestly, you could find something wrong with any symbol, or anything really, and sometimes you just have to stick to the original intent.”

Butler continued to give examples of symbols that are often used, which have double meanings.

“Take the Longhorn symbol,  it could also mean devil worship, yet it’s our school’s symbol. So I just feel like you could find something wrong with pretty much anything and there has to be a line that you draw,” Butler said.

Goughenour believes Parkway should practice what they preach when it comes to student independence.

“Parkway says students need to have more of their own voice, and parents shouldn’t be so much involved. With this situation it wasn’t like that, which is very contradictory to Parkway’s core values,” Goughenour said.

Faced with this difficult situation Butler and Goughenour refocused their energies and illustrated a new design.

“Our new design was ‘Dream Big’ and is a kind of graffiti looking, colorful design where the ‘ig’ in ‘big’ is a 19,” Butler said.

With the help of two other painters, seniors Bri Vietmeier and Allani Gordon, the artists have started to paint the new design.

“My favorite part about their new design is the colors: the colors are awesome. I mean, the whole design is just amazing,” Sink said.

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on April 23, 2019.