A teacher in Washington state was reportedly forced to remove a pro-police flag from her middle school classroom after administrators deemed it a “political message,” despite allowing messages in support of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride flags to remain posted in the school.
While the Marysville Middle School teacher wished to remain anonymous, her brother, Chris Sutherland, told The Jason Rantz Show that administrators told his sister it is “controversial” to display a “Thin Blue Line” flag in her classroom and that it “makes kids and staff feel unsafe.”
The teacher had hung the flag in support of Sutherland, who is a former police officer. She surrounded it with photos of her brother, who was a resource officer during the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting in 2014, in which a 15-year-old gunman shot and killed four students and critically wounded a fifth before killing himself.
The teacher said the controversy began when an assistant principal at the school issued a warning about her “Thin Blue Line” laptop sticker.
The assistant principal said that there were “concerns about how students, families, and community members might interpret what the image is intending to communicate and that this interpretation may cause a disruption to the learning environment,” according to Rantz, who reviewed an HR document on the incident.
However, she was not forced to remove the sticker and later added the flag to her classroom.
Another assistant principal demanded that the teacher take the flag down.
An HR representative for the district wrote in a Letter of Clarification to the teacher that the district was “highly concerned about the impact of this political symbol on students, staff, and families of Marysville Middle School.”
The district ordered the teacher to “refrain from using the ‘Thin Blue Line Flag’ symbol” in the school and warned she may face “further disciplinary action” if she does not comply.
Sutherland told Rantz that the school has allowed messages in support of BLM, as well as LGBTQ flags to be displayed in classrooms.
“There’s also, she was telling me, BLM stuff hanging on walls, which she was told is OK. Just for whatever reason, just the Thin Blue Line flag cannot be hung up there,” Sutherland said.
The school did not take issue with a pride flag the teacher had displayed in her classroom in support of a gay relative.
Rantz reported that the district declined to explain why BLM and pride flags were allowed, while pro-police flags were not.
The teacher took down her “Thin Blue Line” flag and described the incident as “the most traumatic and hostile” that she has experienced at the school in a message to HR.
Sutherland said he “can hear in her voice how much it actually hurts” to be forced to remove the flag. He said his sister will continue to fight to reinstate the flag in her classroom, without fear of being fired for it.