Augusta County School Board to discuss student art some consider offensive

VERONA — The Augusta County School Board sent out a notice just before 3 p.m. Saturday that it would meet in a special, closed meeting at 9 p.m. Saturday night to discuss what it termed a student matter.

Tim Simmons, who represents the Pastures District on the school board, posted on his Facebook page that the topic of the meeting concerns a piece of art slated to be shown at a student art show scheduled for Sunday at Fort Defiance High School.

“This particular piece of art is seen as offensive to some, including myself,” Simmons wrote.

The News Leader has learned that the particular piece of art shows praying hands holding a rosary over layered Bible pages. Over the image are the words “God Loves You, But Not Enough To Save You.”

The student wrote that the piece deals with religious trauma and the impact of growing up queer in a religious background.

“This piece is representative of the idea that growing up queer meant you couldn’t be saved by God,” the student wrote. “I grew up in a religious background and that influenced this project. The idea of the glowing red cross is to represent evil in the eyes of God and the bleeding rainbow represents devotion vs identity. Overall the piece gets across the message I want it to, even if it is a little in your face. I wish I had made the rosary more detailed but I’m glad I spent most of my time in the hands and drips. I think this was a successful piece and states what I want it to.”

Simmons said that, while the meeting will be held in closed session, if a vote is taken, the outcome will be made public.

“This is a sensitive topic with various dynamics at play and I will do my best to handle it as such,” Simmons wrote on his Facebook page. “The School Board is working with our legal counsel and I am currently reviewing the Supreme Court rulings relevant to this situation.”

Simmons said that he will be asking for a review on the process for approving pieces that are included in art shows.

“Is there a process in place and, if so, how do we honor students’ free speech while also creating a culture of respect within our schools,” he wrote.

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— Patrick Hite is The News Leader’s education reporter. Story ideas and tips always welcome. Contact Patrick (he/him/his) at and follow him on Twitter @Patrick_Hite. Subscribe to us at