New York school district bans Thin Blue Line sweatshirt honoring slain police officer, allows BLM apparel

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PELHAM, NY – All Carla Caccavale wanted was to honor her police detective father’s memory with a tribute sweatshirt.  Pelham school officials were having none of it.

In June of 1976, Pelham native and New York City Transit Police Detective George Caccavale was working a second job at a check cashing facility in Long Island City. 

Three men planned a robbery for weeks and knew Caccavale was a police officer.  In a holdup at the facility, the men shot and killed Caccavale “in cold blood” and escaped with thousands of dollars.  The perpetrators, members of the Black Liberation Army, were later caught, convicted, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Caccavale’s death was, subsequently, ruled to be in the line of duty.

George Caccavale’s daughter, Carla, was only 20 days old when her father was slain.  Throughout her life, she has always treasured his memory, and after the NYPD named one of its police dogs “Vale” in Detective Caccavale’s honor, she created a sweatshirt as a tribute to him.

The sweatshirt displays “In honor of Detective George Caccavale” on the right sleeve and a Thin Blue Line flag on the left.  It also has “Vale” stitched on the right chest and the NYPD logo on the left chest.

Carla Caccavale initially had just a few sweatshirts made for family and police officers, but the sweatshirts were so popular that she ordered more and sold them to raise money for the NYPD Detectives Widows & Children Fund and the Retired Police K9 Foundation.

Several of the Pelham Memorial High School staff bought and wore the sweatshirts as well as other Thin Blue Line apparel.

Sadly, the sweatshirts and other clothing bearing the Thin Blue Line flag came under fire from Pelham superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Champ, who apparently still permitted voting related shirts depicting the names of black persons allegedly killed by police. 

There was also no ban on Black Lives Matter apparel.

Champ wrote in an email to staff:

“I am writing to clarify my recent decision to ask staff to remove thin blue line apparel while allowing vote shirts with the names of black individuals who had been killed by police to be worn.

“I recognize that in these heightened political times, these decisions, which were made on a case-by-case basis, have become intertwined and perceived by some to reflect a political leaning on behalf of myself and the district.”

Arguing that the Thin Blue Line is seen as a threat, Champ continued:

“Like many symbols whose meaning has been co-opted over time, the thin blue line flag has increasingly been perceived by students to be threatening in nature, causing them to feel unsafe within our schools.”

Champ doubled down further on the the so-called ‘safety’ issue when she added:

“We have an obligation to provide a school environment where our students feel safe and respected, and are afforded every human dignity, and we have an obligation as a district to protect them from the presence of anything that may be contrary to that goal.”

Quite understandably, Paul DiGiacomo, president of the New York Detectives’ Endowment Association, was “absolutely outraged” by the superintendent’s edict.

DiGiacomo fired back an email to Champ, noting that graphics and logos with the Thin Blue Line flag represent “personal and deeply felt family memorials that [Champ has] somehow turned into ‘threatening political speech.’”

Pointing out Champ’s apparent hypocrisy in the case of symbols, DiGiacomo added:

“At the same time, you’ve decided that the 1960s symbol of a ‘Black Power’ fist is not political, and that listing the names of people who died during the commission of a crime, being questioned by police, or while resisting arrest isn’t political either, and are permissible to wear.”

DiGiacomo also took Champ to task for calling the Thin Blue Line “threatening,” stating:

“Your claim has no more validity than to proclaim that a Norman Rockwell illustration of a Police Officer is ‘threatening,’ or that an American flag is ‘threatening.’

“Your thought process is, in of itself, patronizing, ridiculous, demeaning, degrading, offensive, and flat out absurd.”

Citing violent crime statistics, DiGiacomo also pointed out that “turning [Champ’s] students into cop-haters” was counterproductive, as fear of police prevents them from seeking help from police when it is necessary and needed. He added that this results in children’s “victimization and under-reporting of it, which leads to criminals getting away with, literally, murder.”

Champ, subsequently, backpedaled in the wake of the displeasure with her orders.

She sent her staff a follow-up email, which admitted:

“decisions made last week did not evenly support our ideals of political neutrality.”

According to the New York Daily News, the email went on to say that staff should wear no clothing that would be considered “political speech, including support for candidates and social movements such as those represented in our schools last week on T-shirts and masks.’”

Also according to the Daily News, the district issued a statement denying that supporting police was ever the issue.

The district added:

“This was specifically about disallowing staff attire displaying symbols considered to have political meaning, including, but not limited to the blue line flag.”

DiGiacomo was evidently unimpressed by the school district’s amendment to the previous edict.

He asserted:

“[Champ] was following was she felt was the popular way in these times, before the about face.”

Carla Caccavale appeared, similarly, unmoved.

She told the New York Daily News:

“The issue is still that a blue line flag is not political.”

She continued:

“It just isn’t. It’s too late. This was never about politics.

“It was about honoring my father.”

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Below is a recent report on another school that came out against the display of the Thin Blue Line flag:

HUBER HEIGHTS, OH – A mother is outraged after learning that her son’s middle-school teacher called him out in front of the class for having a Thin Blue Line flag as a background on Google Classroom. 

Not only was the child ridiculed in front of others by the teacher, he was forced to remove it.

“On September 24th my 7th grade student who attends Huber Heights City Schools in Huber Heights Ohio, chose a Blue Line…

Posted by Police Wives of America on Thursday, October 8, 2020

The mother, named only as Danielle W., posted her story on a Facebook page called “Police Wives of America.”  She reported that her son was attending an online class Sept. 24 for Huber Heights City Schools when the incident happened. 

Her son’s English teacher noticed the flag, she said, and stopped classwork to humiliate him. Danielle said:

“His English teacher took it upon herself to ridicule him in front of his peers for 15 minutes after a student pointed out that he had a blue line flag.  The teacher called him out in front of the whole class, told him she was instructed to tell him to remove it, and that he needed to excuse himself from class to do so, then come back after he fixed it!”

Rightfully appalled at the situation, Danielle was also upset that other children were allowed to display Black Lives Matter flags and the defiant fist raised in the air that now signifies BLM.  There were allegedly no problems with those flags, only the thin blue line flag.  Danielle said:

“After she pushed at him saying the flag was political, calling at a blue lives matter flag, telling him some people don’t believe in police, amongst other things my son maturely responding stating, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt feelings, this flag isn’t political it’s a blue line flag that represents fallen officers.’ ”

Danielle reported that the school principal and the superintendent have made it clear that the flag needed to be removed from her child’s Google Classroom account.  Their reasoning was that they believe that it is political and that someone apparently had their feelings hurt over it.  Danielle said:

“Not ONCE was it asked how my son felt, or if his feelings were hurt.  He stated he would have to check the student handbook and online conduct to see if my son did any wrongdoing.  Did something wrong, are you kidding me!?”

Danielle alleged that since the incident occurred, her son is now being called a racist and is being threatened.  She said:

“He’s been threatened, embarrassed in front of his class, ridiculed for showing his support . . . his feelings matter!”

Danielle states that she and her family will stand up for her son, noting that her husband is a police officer.  She said:

“This BLUE family is NOT backing down!”

Unfortunately, the battle did not end with Danielle’s complaints to the school superintendent.  She later reported that she had been requested to meet with him for an informal meeting regarding the issue and agreed.  Danielle said:

“The school’s attorney was there and said Johnny ‘violated online conduct’ as it caused TWO students to say something to the teacher.  Saying it was considered a disruption to class . . . yet the teacher called upon my son, not once, but several times calling his name!

 “My son’s feelings were NEVER considered yet it was brought to our attention yet again that my son using a Blue Line Flag as his profile picture was considered “Political” and it hurt feelings! 

All the superintendent cared about was being recorded, yet he made the effort to record the conversation himself!  And it was LIE after LIE completely contradicting themselves.

 “With all due respect, the Blue Line Flag is not political, it represents fallen officers.  That’s my son’s words and that’s my son’s feelings, that he respectfully told his teacher that day. 

We have taught our children to respect others and their feelings and to always be respectful, but not let someone bully you or make feel bad over your own feelings and following your heart.”

 Danielle may have lost this battle, but it is doubtful that she will take the loss sitting down. 

Do you want to join our private family of first responders and supporters?  Get unprecedented access to some of the most powerful stories that the media refuses to show you.  Proceeds get reinvested into having active, retired and wounded officers, their families and supporters tell more of these stories.  Click to check it out.

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