What happened when a school banned a teen’s art

Originally published on

In the end, social justice prevailed over painful irony. In the final hours before the launch of a Connecticut high school art show, a gifted, charismatic senior had her project, a statement on body shaming, victim blaming and censorship, removed from the show. Just in time, the school superintendent stepped in to reinstate the work, but in the interim, a groundswell of passionate young voices took to social media to support the young artist and challenge the limits of self-expression in our schools.

Emily Mann (aka BlueJay Interrobang), who is headed to Savannah College of Art and Design this fall, had been working for four months — with the guidance of her art teacher — on this piece for the school’s art show, which was to take place on Wednesday, June 3. But on Tuesday, June 2, she was informed that the work could not be shown.

Both the school principal and the director of art deemed the work “inappropriate,” and the student was told that “high school is not the place to make social statements.”


Where are young women to learn and internalize these lessons if not through high school dialogue?

One of her classmates posted a statement on her private Facebook page, calling the censorship “ridiculous” and expressing the support of Emily’s entire Advanced Placement art class.

After the Glastonbury High School superintendent stepped in to review the work — which he termed powerful and important, BlueJay’s brother, Elijah Mann, posted these comments on Facebook:

“It’s official, Superintendent Dr. Alan Bookman stepped in this morning and reinstated BlueJay’s concentration back into today’s art show! To everyone who shared this photo, emailed the school system, and generally just sent her your support: THANK YOU! You are all the best kinds of humans, and thanks to our combined efforts, education and free speech have prevailed. Let’s make sure something like this never happens again. BlueJay, you are such an important voice on this society, never stop pushing the envelope.”