AUSTIN (KXAN) — A special perk for seniors at Austin’s Bowie High School is feeling like a punishment for some after the students said they were told to change — or were denied — the designs they wanted to paint on their reserved parking spots.
One student, who asked to not be named, said Principal Mark Robinson told her to make it obvious her painting of the Taj Mahal was not a mosque.
The student, who is from India, said the painting was previously approved by school staff well before school started, but Robinson only recently told her it was not allowed.
Another student submitted a painting meant to be a self-portrait of herself, showing an African-American girl wearing a shirt that reads “Black Girl Magic.”
Senior Kennedy Hartman said school staff didn’t feel comfortable with the phrase, and only approved the painting after she removed it.
“Saying black girl magic is like feeling empowering about yourself and feeling like you can accomplish anything as a black girl,” Hartman said. “A predominantly white school is telling me, whose staff is predominantly white, is telling me I can’t put black girl magic on there.”
However, the district approved a “blue lives matter” flag. Viewers also sent KXAN photos showing multiple parking spots with bible verses painted on them.
Brooke Wilkerson wrote Romans 12:21 on her parking spot, which is, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
“As a Christian student I can put my Bible verse, but as someone who believes in Allah and worships Islam, the religion, they should be able to put whatever they want on their parking spot,” Wilkerson said.
The parking sports are supposed to be a reward for students with good attendance. Seniors can pay $50 for spots they can then custom paint.
In a statement to KXAN News, AISD spokesperson Cristina Nguyen wrote, “The spots are a privilege for eligible students, however, all parking spot designs are subject to approval and cannot include religious symbolism.”
Despite that statement, the school’s guidelines and procedures do not mention what cannot be included, and only say the painting should be “…a design that reflects your interests, shows your school spirit, or simply an interesting or creative design.”
The school disputes Hartman’s claim and said it has no record of a request to write “Black Girl Magic” being denied.
KXAN has reviewed emails that appear to support Hartman’s assertion that her design was denied by school staff.
AISD denied KXAN access to Bowie High to view the parking spaces, saying the campus is “private property.”