An Ohio school district has banned “thin blue line” flags after one high school football player walked into the field with one to honor the local first responders, including a coach who is a police officer.
Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael P. Hanlon Jr. issued a statement saying: “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.”
After the game, community members debated whether the player’s action was an innocent move or if it had racial connotations, and this led some to reach out to the district administrators.
Hanlon stated that running out onto the field carrying the flag “could be interpreted as a racially motivated action” and that district policy “does not permit engagement in political activity.”
Hanlon acknowledged that the school had close ties with first responders after the shooting at Chardon High School 8 years ago that left three students dead, one paralyzed, and another one injured.
“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,” Hanlon stated.
Frank Hall, a former assistant football coach and teacher at the school, was hailed nationally after it was revealed that he had charged at the gunman during the shooting and had later prayed with the victims. Days later, he stated that the real heroes were the emergency responders who responded to the scene.
“I only wish I could have done more,” he said in the 2012 interview. “I'm not a hero. Just a football coach and a study hall teacher.”
The 17-year-old shooter, T. J Lane, was sentenced to life in prison.
Hall was praised for chasing Lane away and potentially saving the lives of more students.
In response to the district’s decision to ban the flag, Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri called for Hanlon’s resignation, writing: “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,” referring to the players who ran alongside the flag.
Sources: America Now