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School district in Ohio bans 'thin blue line' flag after football player carried it onto field

School district in Ohio bans 'thin blue line' flag after football player carried it onto field
Posted at 6:14 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 18:14:05-04

Following the controversy sparked by a football player carrying a "thin blue line" American flag on the football field Friday night, Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr. has banned the flag in a school setting.

In a statement to the community, Hanlon said the incident understandably drew responses on social media and direct communications to district officials.

Based on discussions that ensued over the weekend, it does not appear that this action was motivated by racism, rather a show of support for one of our coaches who serves as a police officer, as well as for the first responders in our community who have developed a special relationship with our school and students in the wake of our school tragedy of February 27, 2012. Nevertheless, it is understandable how this could be interpreted as a racially-motivated action and, therefore, not acceptable in a school community.

Our school district is fundamentally anti-racist as reflected in Board of Education policies ranging from Equal Employment Opportunity to matters of student and staff activities. Our goal is to ensure that all students, staff and community members are provided the same opportunities to grow and learn in Chardon Schools and that this occurs in an environment that values the contributions of every school community member. Our staff members work to support that goal in our classrooms and through lessons learned within the scope of extracurricular activities.

Hanlon said school district policy does not permit engagement in political activity, and as a result, the "thin blue line" flag will not be a part of any future pre-game activities at Chardon athletic events.

The “thin blue line flag” is considered a symbol of support and solidarity with members of law enforcement. For decades it’s been used to celebrate police officers, but in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and its call to end police brutality against people of color, the flag has taken on a different meaning for some, according to Politico Magazine.

The district said it’s working on a plan with the athletic director to review any pre-game displays for possible connections to any form of discrimination or particular political views.

The district is committed to an atmosphere that respects and values every individual within our school community and is in the process of engaging with an equity/organizational development consultant to review policies, practices and systems throughout the district. The goal of this work will be to improve awareness and to develop specific strategies that will enable us to move forward effectively.

As a school district we absolutely recognize the significant impact of this event and the discussion that occurred in our community in the following days. It will be important for us to use this as a learning opportunity and to grow stronger as a school district.

On Tuesday, Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus posted the statement below to the department's Facebook page:

This story was first reported by Kaylyn Hlavaty at WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio.