County commissioner rips school superintendent for banning “Thin Blue Line” flag from academic functions

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CHARDON, OH – Ralph Spidalieri, Geauga County Commissioner went full on attack mode when he wrote a letter to the Chardon Local Schools Superintendent.

Spidalieri called for Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr. to step down from his position. This was after Hanlon motioned to ban the “thin blue line” flag from academic functions.

This occurred after some student-athletes carried the pro-police symbol onto the football field.

Spidalieri wrote while calling for Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr. to resign:

“Your letter sickens me and so many others that have reached out to me and expressed the same disgust with your inability to stand up and recognize their patriotism.”


 

This controversy all began from a Friday night football game. Chardon High School players carried the “thin blue line” American flag onto the field when they faced football foe Eastlake North High School.

Hanlon begrudgingly admitted that the Chardon community “developed a special relationship” with law enforcement after first responders were called to help in a 2012 school shooting. This left three dead, and three injured.  The February 2012 high school shooting that left three dead and three others injured.

However, Hanlon said that with the modern climate, the pro-police flag could be misconstrued as racially motivated, and inappropriate for athletics which should be free of politics.

Chardon Chief of Police Scott Niehus addressed the community with a message describing how the bond between the police department and students became even stronger, and made the two groups closer in the wake of the school shooting on Feb. 27, 2012.

He recognized that the individual perspective of the Thin Blue Line is unique depending on each person’s experience with police officers.

In the letter Chief Niehus stated:

“Last Friday night, in a show of support for one of their coaches who also serves as a police officer, and in recognition of first responders throughout our community, the Hilltopper football team carried a thin blue line flag onto the football field with them. Our officers appreciated the show of support demonstrated by the players, as this has been an incredibly difficult and challenging time for many law enforcement officers across the country.”

Chief Niehus spoke of the history of the bond the police had with the schools. It started in 1947 with Chief John Bohl who loved kids, and understood the importance of a positive relationship between children and law enforcement. He started a crossing guard program and frequently found himself interacting with students. He continued through the D.A.R.E. Program, and the February 27, 2012 shooting. He addressed today’s concerns where tensions between teens and police are volatile.

He added:

“The officers of the Chardon police department strive to represent the best of what law enforcement officers should be. To us, the thin blue line represents the strength and courage of officers working together as a profession to make our community safe.”

He thanked the community for their support. He reminded and emphasized that anyone who needed their help would receive it.

He then concluded:

“When called upon we will respond. We will perform our mission as guided by our core values, and the principles of service, justice and fundamental fairness. That’s who we are, and that’s what our community expects of us.”

The Chardon Board of Education President Madelon Horvath emphasized their support for the Superintendent in a release. They also cited the district’s policy that prohibits political speech by staff members, although saying it “does not diminish the District’s support and appreciation for police and all first responders.”

A part of the released statement read:

“The Chardon Board of Education would like to make it clear that we are in full support of Dr. Hanlon’s and the Administration’s decision regarding the football team’s display of the Thin Blue Line flag on the field at last week’s football game. Because it was displayed as part of a pre-game ceremony under the supervision of school staff, it was construed as sanctioned by the school district. Political activity by staff members is not allowable under Board of Education policy.

In summation of the statement, it cited that as of now the thin blue line flag is considered a political statement. It has also chastised a teacher for a Black Lives Matter sign in the background during a school session.

The community has rallied around the students and their use of waving the thin blue line flag.  

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When the thin blue line flag is used in a school it is considered inappropriate, however, another school district is using anti-police propaganda, and has the full support of its superintendent. 

DUXBURY, MA- A middle school principal showed her students an anti-police propaganda video. The video depicted high profile Black Lives Matter activists, including Colin Kaepernick kneeling on a football field during the National Anthem.

According to reports, Tatyana Semyrog, a concerned parent and who is also running for State Representative, shared the incident as well as screenshots from the presentation via Twitter. The tweet has since been removed from her account, but below is a screenshot of it:

In response, Superintendent John Antonucci explained that he fully supports the principal’s decision to show the anti-police propaganda video. He said:

“In the spirit of fully transparency and honesty, you should know that I fully support Mrs. McGuire and her use of the TV commercial with the students. The commercial is mean to be inspiring and motivating and in fact, I also used it on opening day with our staff.”

He added:

“In addition, it has been widely broadcast on television and the internet all summer, so it is already in the public realm. Although the intent of airing the commercial was not political, I would add that the Duxbury Public Schools is fully committed to promoted anti-racism.”

He continued:

“To shield our students from a topic that is so pervasive in our country right now would be irresponsible and detrimental to students’ education. We will continue to address topics that may make some people uncomfortable, which is an important part of the learning process.”

The superintendent stated that shielding their students from this relevant topic would be irresponsible, but what is really irresponsible is only showing their students one side of the story or presenting BLM as something that is not divisive when many large cities across the country are literally burning to the ground during violent protests.

It is also irresponsible to teach students that they live in a country filled with racist people and racist police officers or to tell them that if they do not support BLM then they do not support black lives.

The superintendent stated that as a school they will continue to address topics that might make some people uncomfortable.

If they plan to have the uncomfortable conversations about police using excessive force and systemic racism, are they willing to have the uncomfortable conversations about the true facts and evidence surrounding officer-involved shooting cases?

And that in many of those incidents the individual had prior convictions, a warrant for arrest, a weapon on them, and/or that they did not listen to the officer when they were given verbal commands?

Will they also be discussing the murder of David Dorn at the hands of BLM protesters or the fact that Colin Kaepernick has never even voted in an election before?

If the superintendent claims they are going to continue to have these uncomfortable situations and not shield their students from the issues happening across the country right now, why are they not educating their students on the bigger picture?

Why are they not telling all sides of the stories?

Why are they not educating their students that the First Amendment allows people to peacefully protest and push for change, but that it does not give people the right to physically assault law enforcement officers who are still standing and trying their hardest to serve and protect their communities. 

The response from the superintendent is alarming and disheartening. Many of America’s cities are burning and suffering from looting, vandalism, and destruction of property to locally owned businesses.

Law enforcement officers are being assaulted and gravely disrespected to the point where they can no longer protect and serve their communities to the best of their ability.

People are being murdered by the dozens within days, including young children under the age of 13. True education requires teachers and administrators to have all of the uncomfortable conversations, not just the ones they believe are important because of their own bias and prejudices.    

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