A student paints a mural of two boys kissing and then the school covers it

Feb 3, 2015 at 5:20 p.m. ET

Controversy is brewing at Onoway Junior/Senior High School over a mural painted by a student in the school's hallway. Kaela Wilton designed and painted a picture of two boys in an embrace, kissing. Both the principal and the art teacher originally approved the painting but after receiving complaints, the school decided to cover it.

Boys kissing mural

Image: CBC News

Principal James Trodden told CBC news, "At the time we should have put more thought into the bigger picture." To him, the bigger picture was the fact that kissing isn't allowed in the school hallways so a picture of kissing probably shouldn't be allowed either. Other people held similar sentiments, saying the mural was "glorifying sex."

In an elementary school, a mural of two people (of any sex) in an embrace, kissing may not be appropriate. But this is a high school and with hormones raging, students are kissing and likely having sex, despite any efforts to censor the idea. Removing the mural based on the notion that it isn't appropriate is naive, and may potentially cause more harm than good.

But is that really the bigger picture anyway? Wilton seems to have a better grasp of what the bigger picture really is. She says she designed the mural to show support for people who are gay, or who are in the closet and scared to come out.

The truth is, there are very likely gay students at that high school and a mural that represents their potential relationships is a huge step forward for gay teens. According to a study by Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D., lesbian, gay and bisexual youth were much more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers (21.5 percent vs 4.2 percent). In addition, he found that LGBT teens were 20 percent more likely to commit suicide in unsupportive environments. Considering teens spend a majority of their time at school, creating a supportive environment should be a priority.

LGBT teens may not find support in their homes and very little can be done about that. However, a mural such as this one tells gay and lesbian students that they are accepted. In the end, this atmosphere of support could mean a difference of life and death for a gay student.

Students at the school have since removed the bulletin board that was placed over the mural, proving that tolerance and acceptance isn't necessarily determined by age or education. The school hasn't made an official decision on what to do with the mural but hopefully, regardless of what is decided, LGBT youth at that school will know that at least someone there supports them and accepts them as they are.

More on gay rights

Laverne Cox and others who are destroying stereotypes
Mom's funeral cancelled after pastor realizes she was a lesbian
Royals don't support Benedict Cumberbatch's gay-rights campaign