A Florida high school in Neptune Beach banned Thin Blue Line flags after complaints online said they were “openly racist.”
Since last year, the Fletcher High School football team carried the flags at their games in honor of one of its player’s father. Player Caelan Lavender’s father Captain Andy Lavender spent 29 years in law enforcement. He also supported several of the local sports programs. Andy Lavender passed away in 2019, according to News4Jax.
After displaying the flags, the team and school received backlash online. Some online users called them “openly racist”. According to Fox News, the flag is “pro-law enforcement”. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, there’s been a debate over the flag’s true meaning. Some have called it a symbol for “police brutality.”
Due to the backlash, the school’s principal, Dean Ledford, stated the school would ban the flag’s use. He said the flag “different meaning for different people”. Rather than honoring Lavender’s death, Ledford said some interpreted the flag as a “political statement of the team and of the school.”
The school banned the Thin Blue Line flag to maintain a politically neutral zone.
The principal said he discussed the matter of the flag’s discontinued use with the coaches on the team. In the statement, Ledford said he supported local law enforcement. The school would find an “appropriate” way to honor Lavender’s legacy. He said people should interpret the ban as “an action to maintain the school’s role as a venue for constructive dialogue, and not a proponent of any particular point of view.”
“As the principal of Fletcher, I greatly appreciate our School Police, Jacksonville Beach Police, Atlantic Beach Police, Neptune Beach Police and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for their work in protecting our school and our community,” Ledford said. “As a public school, we must take great care in maintaining an objective position on various political issues.”
Lavender’s wife Lorie said she felt disappointed by the school’s decision. She told News4Jax her son just wanted to honor his late father. She also doesn’t view the flag as a political or racist symbol.
“We’re dealing with it as it comes,” she added. “Will still pay our respects to Andy.”
In related news, an Ohio school suspended two football players from the team after they displayed Thin Blue Line and Thin Red Line flags at a game. The two performed the display as a tribute to 9/11 first responders. Since then, the school board reinstated the players after determining their actions weren’t politically motivated.
[H/T: Fox News]