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School district bans police-supporting ‘thin blue line’ flag after football team carries it on field

An Ohio school district has banned further use of the so-called “thin blue line” flag, which symbolizes support for police officers, after a high school football team carried it onto the field.

Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon, Jr. announced the ban after many individuals “directly complain[ed] to school officials” about the flag’s appearance at the Chardon High School football game on August 28.

According to KMOV, Hanlon noted the player who carried the flag was not “motivated by racism’; he hoisted it as a tribute to local first responders who had assisted with a 2012 shooting at the school, and because one of the team’s coaches is a cop.

“Nevertheless,” Hanlon said, “it is understandable how this could be interpreted as a racially-motivated action and, therefore, not acceptable in a school community.”

Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus said he understood how some could be offended by the flag:

We recognize that the Thin Blue Line represents either the best of, or worst of, what our profession has to offer depending a person’s point of view. We understand that people frame what the line means to them based on a perspective that is unique to their own experiences with law enforcement.

The school board supports Hanlon’s decision. But some community members aren’t happy:

Parent Laura Spencer said she doesn’t agree with the ban on the flag, citing concerns about freedom of speech violations.

“I think freedom of speech is our rights, so I think [students] should be able to express it in the right way,” Spencer told WEWS. …

Parent Andrea Clark also said she thinks the school didn’t make the right decision by banning the flag.

“In the NFL, they’re all making statements, and that’s fine for them too,” Clark told WEWS. “Everybody has the right to make their statement.” …

[First Amendment expert and Case Western University professor Andrew] Geronimo said he thinks the superintendent made the wrong decision by banning the “thin blue line” flag because it was a missed opportunity for meaningful conversation among the entire student body.

“Give [students] credit of discussing their feelings and their reactions to [the flag] rather than saying ‘We just don’t allow any political speech within the Chardon School District,’” Geronimo told WEWS.

According to WKYC, “more than a thousand” community members supporting the players’ right to display the flag held a rally yesterday in Chardon Square. Also on Friday, Chardon HS announced it would set up a “free speech zone” in front of the school before game time for a pro-law enforcement rally.

The school board contends the “thin blue line” flag is not banned from football games; the issue is coaches “not participat[ing] in something that could be perceived as political.”

WKYC also reports that a local county commissioner has called on Superintendent Hanlon to resign.

Read the KMOV and WKYC articles.

MORE: Skidmore College activists demand firing of pro-police faculty

MORE: Elementary school ‘whiteness’ lesson: Sympathizing with police is ‘racist’

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