CLEVELAND, Ohio — Chardon school Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr. has banned a “thin blue line” flag on school premises, after a football player sparked controversy with it before the first game of the season Friday.
The “thin blue line flag” has been used a symbol of support and solidarity with members of law enforcement for decades. But in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and amid the Black Lives Matter movement, the flag has become polarizing. As a symbol of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter group, critics say the flag — a black-and-white American flag with a royal blue stripe — can be racist, representing a division between police and the communities they serve.
Chardon Local Schools on Monday since released a statement, in which Hanlon noted the incident reasonably received unfavorable responses on social media and direct communications to district officials. He said the flag was linked to the 2012 shooting at Chardon High School.
“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.
Hanlon said the district is fundamentally anti-racist.
“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 says the school district policy doesn’t permit engaging in political activity, and as a result, the “thin blue line” flag will no longer be permitted at any activities at Chardon athletic events.
The school district said they are working on a plan with the athletic director to review any pre-game displays for possible connections to any form of political views or discrimination. It will also use the experience to teach its students.
“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,” he said. “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.”