SANTA CLARITA, Calif. - A school board meeting for the Hart Union High School District was packed with people for and against the "Thin Blue Line" flag Wednesday.
This follows the Saugus High School football team bringing out the "Thin Blue Line" flag ahead of the team's game on Friday, weeks after the team was told the flag was banned in a decision made by the team's coach.
The Santa Clarita team had been bringing the flag out onto the field during its pregame ceremonies. In 2019, a school shooting at Saugus High killed two students and injured three others. The tradition was started to show solidarity with law enforcement, who went into the school that day to protect more students from getting hurt. However, the flag has also been associated with white supremacists, and in September, the team was asked to end the tradition because of the flag's divisiveness.
At the meeting, some people were demanding the flag be allowed to be flown on the field, while others want it to remain banned.
- Saugus HS football team brings back 'Thin Blue Line' flag (Oct. 2022)
- Saugus High School dropping tradition of taking field with 'Thin Blue Line' flag (Sept. 2022)
"The law enforcement is out there saving our children's lives and many other people, and I'm appalled that people are actually trying to demonize them," said Cindy Josten.
Josten said it is "not political."
"The children at Saugus were holding the flag to honor law enforcement that saved their friends' lives. That's it. It's not a political thing. It's not racial. It's not a hate symbol. It's honoring the men and women that go out and save lives," said Josten.
Valerie Bradford, the President of the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the NAACP also attended the meeting as part of the flag's opposition.
"We are here today to stand for the parents and the students that have spoken out against what's happening at Saugus High School and that is the presentation of them bringing the Thin Blue Line flag out on the field. It makes students feel uncomfortable, and they reached out, so we're here in support of that. We have done the research. We know the history of the flag. We're trying to educate the community on the history of the flag and why we stand opposed to it. We are not anti-law enforcement. We're pro-inclusion, and we feel that every student should be allowed to attend school, feel safe, feel comfortable in a peaceful environment, and this flag does not do that," said Bradford.
Cheryl Corriveau, the Treasurer of the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the NAACP also spoke to FOX 11.
"It's [Thin Blue Line flag] being used as a divisive symbol that has no place on a school campus, school campuses and football games should be for everyone. Everyone should be welcomed there and they shouldn't be scared to attend due to the crowd or the symbols used during the game," said Corriveau.
Glenda Yakel attended the meeting in support of the flag.
"We have many policemen in our valley and they should all be supported. I feel like they're not being supported and they're treating them like the bad people, but who are they gonna call when something bad happens to them. Police officers come in every race, color, ethnicity so how could any of them be racist? They're there to support people and there are a few bad ones, but there's a lot more good ones," said Yakel.
Nancy Fairbanks agreed.
"I'm appreciative of my law enforcement. I support them 100% and on 9/11, we always said we would never forget but apparently, we forgot," said Fairbanks.
USC Law Professor, Jody Armour, spoke with FOX 11 to provide context.
"On the one side, you have people interpreting it as a symbol of support for law enforcement. On the other hand you have people who saw that same flag being flown in Charlottesville with tiki torches and the unite the right rally that involved a lot of white supremacy and racism. It has a negative association and a more positive association and the question is, are the negative associations so weighty that they outweigh the positive associations," said Armour.
Armour said it is a similar controversy that was expressed with the Confederate flag.
"Many said the confederate battle flag is about southern pride, but it was also something that we saw with Dylan Roof when he shot the Emmanuel nine. He had the confederate flag with him. We saw it with expressions of white supremacy, so ultimately the question became is the value of the confederate flag expressing solidarity with southern pride, does that outweigh all the hurt associated with that symbol and we're asking the same question now with the Thin Blue Line flag," said Armour.
Mike Kuhlman, the Superintendent of the district released a statement about why the flag being flown Friday was not addressed during Wednesday's meeting:
"In order for the Governing Board to discuss this issue, it would need to be agendized properly prior to the Board Meeting. The Agenda was posted on Friday afternoon and therefore this issue is not included for discussion or action on Wednesday, November 2.
The Governing Board can however choose to consider new or revised Board Policy at a future meeting. The Board Agenda is set by the Board President in consultation with the Superintendent. I stand ready to work with the Board President on properly agendizing this subject if this is the Governing Board’s desire. The action in question from Friday night appears to involve the violation of a team rule. Any potential disciplinary response can be addressed at the site level. I know that the Principal and the Athletic staff are aware and are following up. I do hope our focus and attention can remain on the kids – celebrating the outstanding performance of the Saugus Football team as they head into this first round of CIF playoffs. I encourage folks to come out and support the Centurions!"