CHARDON, Ohio — The city of Chardon has been embroiled in a controversy over the use of the 'thin blue line flag' by a high school football player when the Hilltoppers came out onto the field last Friday.
Chardon Local Schools superintendent Michael Hanlon announced that the display of the thin blue line flag would not be permitted at school functions. On the heels of that ruling, Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri called for the superintendent's resignation in a letter sent on Tuesday.
The 'thin blue line' American flag 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.
On Tuesday evening, Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus wrote a lengthy letter on Facebook discussing his department's philosophy about the thin blue line flag and much more.
"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," Niehus wrote of the team deciding to carry the flag on the field.
"Our bond with the school system and Chardon students became even more intense in the wake of the school tragedy of February 27, 2012," he added in a reference to the day in which T.J. Lane killed three students, paralyzed another and injured two others in a shooting at Chardon High School.
"We recognize that the Thin Blue Line represents either the best of, or worst of, what our profession has to offer depending a person’s point of view. We understand that people frame what the line means to them based on a perspective that is unique to their own experiences with law enforcement. 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. We certainly recognize that we are blessed to live in a community that graciously supports the stressful job that law enforcement officers do, the very difficult situations that we respond to, and the many sacrifices that are made by our officers and their families," Niehaus stated.
The letter closed with Niehaus declaring that "It’s most important that we don’t lose sight that the members of the Chardon Police Department equally serve all persons who require our assistance without regard to race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender expression. 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."
You can read the entire letter below:
The Chardon Board of Education also responded Tuesday with the following statement: