Palo Alto Unified School District Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks announced today that Franco’s paintings will be removed from the Media Arts Center following a set of sexual misconduct allegations.
While Hendricks voiced her appreciation for Franco’s donation, in an email sent out to today to community members, she cited the district’s value of student emotional and physical safety as the motive behind removing the mural and the artwork.
“The decision to remove the mural, and not the artwork, was not made lightly,” Hendricks states in her email, “but we will always prioritize the physical and emotional well-being of our students over any other concerns.”
According to Hendricks, the mural will be replaced by a new project of the Paly Latinos Unidos group in cooperation with the Associated Student Body and Visual and Performing Arts Department.
“Their idea was to celebrate the rich cultural backgrounds and diversity on our [Paly] campus,” Hendricks wrote.
Hendricks also cited her involvement in the RISE Taskforce, a group dedicated to ensuring Title IX compliance, and announced further implementation of comprehensive sexual harassment prevention programs across school sites.
According to Hendricks, the district invited expert speakers to address and educate about important topics regarding sexual harassment in the near future.
“You will soon be learning about national experts who will be speaking to both parents and students at our two high schools to start important, necessary, and often difficult conversations about sexual harassment,” Hendricks said.
The Paly Voice has included her statement in its entirety below:
“Today you may have seen media reports regarding a mural and other artwork at the Paly Media Arts Center (MAC) that was donated by former student and actor James Franco. The decision to remove the mural, and now artwork, was not made lightly but we will always prioritize the physical and emotional well-being of our students over any other concerns.
Paly graduate James Franco donated multiple pieces of artwork and two murals to the Palo Alto High School campus. The school site and district appreciated his donation, acknowledging that the artwork was intended to be temporary in nature and would be respectfully returned or painted over at some point. One mural was removed in 2016, and artwork in the library was taken down this summer during a renovation process.
Related to this, district staff recently considered the best interests of our students in the light of our educational mission, and decided to remove and return the remaining artwork. The second mural was taken down last week; our Latinos Unidos group is working with the Paly ASB and VAPA Department around the concept for a new mural to be painted. Their idea was to celebrate the rich cultural backgrounds and diversity on our campus. We are excited that they came up with this idea, and look forward to helping them with the project. Remaining Franco artwork in our MAC are also now being transitioned as we work with students on their concepts of visual arts on campus to update and provide opportunities for other artistic pieces.
As you may be aware, I am leading the RISE Taskforce, whose mission is to ensure Title IX compliance as well as implement comprehensive sexual harassment prevention programs across all school sites. Many changes have already been made to our reporting systems and we will continue, with the expertise of our new Title IX / Civil Rights Coordinator Megan Farrell, to work on improving these systems. You will soon be learning about national experts who will be speaking to both parents and students at our two high schools to start important, necessary, and often difficult conversations about sexual harassment.
Please know that PAUSD’s commitment to student safety includes transparency and access to complaint processes. Information may be found at: https://www.pausd.org/about/complaint-policies-procedures.
If this has raised issues for your student, our doors are open at any time and counselors are available at school sites. Information related to counseling services may be accessed on our website at: https://www.pausd.org/student-services/counseling-services.