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Ohio school district bans use of thin blue line flag after football player carried it on field

"It is understandable how this could be interpreted as a racially-motivated action and, therefore, not acceptable in a school community."
Credit: Courtesy of the News Herald

CHARDON, Ohio — Last Friday, the Chardon Hiltoppers opened their season with a win over Eastlake North. But the victory did not come without controversy.

When the Chardon players ran out on the field to start the game, one was carrying the 'thin blue line' American flag. The symbol is associated with the Blue Lives Matter movement, a display of unity among police officers in response to the national Black Lives Matter movement. 

In the aftermath since the display, Chardon Superintendent Michael Hanlon has ruled that the flag is no longer able to be used during school events. 

"Given the turbulent times facing our country right now, this action understandably drew responses on social media and direct communications to district officials," Hanlon wrote in a letter to students and parents.

"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 added. 

The decision brought swift reaction on the district's Facebook page. Here was a sample:

"It will never cease to blow my mind that supporting people who risk their lives, FOR US, can’t be supported because a small group of people make a fuss and won’t accept anything but what they deem just."

"I commend superintendent Hanlon for making an unpopular decision that will assure all students, including those of color, are not made to question their place in Chardon Schools. There are plenty of other ways to send a clear message of support our police that doesn't risk also sending a message against racial justice. Unfortunately, this flag has been used by many, not all, to send a nefarious message."

"You should be ashamed Mr. Hanlon! In an effort to be what you felt was politically correct, you have spit in the face of the very people who ran towards danger in your school just years ago! Embarrassed for the Chardon community!"

"As an alumni I am disappointed in Mr Hanlon’s response to the American Flag and the Blue Line that protects the Chardon community. The idea that respecting Law enforcement is somehow a shameful activity is a terrible message."

"School district policy does not permit engagement in political activity. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that we clearly understand how this action could be perceived as political in nature. As a result, this display will not be a part of future pre-game activities at Chardon athletic contests. In addition, measures will be put in place by our Athletic Director to review any planned pre-game displays for possible connections to any form of discrimination or particular political views," Hanlon added in his letter.

You can read the entire letter below:

On Tuesday, Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri wrote the following letter to Superintendent Hanlon about his decision.

The Chardon Board of Education also responded Tuesday with the following statement: