Weymouth, MA – Some students at Weymouth High School started a petition to ban the display of the Thin Blue Line flag in any form on their campus because it offends them, but the students who support law enforcement are fighting back and say they are doing it in memory of murdered Weymouth Police Officer Michael Chesna.
Many students and staff at Weymouth High School have shown their support for the fallen hero who was killed in the line of duty on July 15, 2018 when a suspect bashed him in the head with a rock and then shot the officer in the head with his own weapon, according to WCVB.
In addition to serving his community, Officer Chesna served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S. Army.
He was known as a family man who left behind a wife and two young daughters, ages four and nine, WCVB reported.
— Cassy Arsenault (@CassyArsenault) July 15, 2018
Community members began flying Thin Blue Line flags on homes and businesses to honor Officer Chesna after his death, and seeing that support for law enforcement demonstrated in Weymouth High School has made some students angry, WFXT reported.
“I feel overwhelming disgust, overwhelming anger and frustration at the fact that this is everywhere in our school,” Weymouth High School senior Bodhi Kolwaite complained. “There are teachers and nurses with masks of the flag, in teachers’ classrooms with the flag and, most notably, the Weymouth High School football team runs out every game with a gigantic flag.”
Kolwaite said the presence of Thin Blue Line flag images were intimidating and distracting in classrooms, WFXT reported.
“You have a student body of people of color, minorities, saying we feel uncomfortable by this,” Luke Seto, a junior at the high school who helped Kolwaite create the petition, said. “There are people out in the world getting killed by the very police force that are supposed to protect them. Whether you like it or not, it’s a symbol of hate, fear, intimidation.”
“It represents corruption, racism, oppression. Whether you like it or not, it’s scaring students. People don’t feel safe in their own schools,” Seto added.
The petition to have Thin Blue Line flags banned from campus accused the school of having a “pro-police culture” and said that “it is a TRUTH that the police are a racist institution.”
It also demanded that “allowing such a flag to be had in any classroom by any teacher must end.”
“It creates a hostile learning environment and is a racial threat. It is a threat to people of color and it is a threat to Black students especially. It is a message to people of color, that the teacher with such a flag believes in an organization that kills, brutalizes, and discriminates against Black people. It cannot be tolerated,” the petition read.
Kolwaite said they planned to give the petition to the superintendent, KFXT reported.
Students who support police immediately fought back against the ban and launched their own petition urging to the school to permit Thin Blue Line symbolism on campus.
The language of the pro-police petition started by Weymouth High School junior Ryan Lindblom was simple and direct.
“Michael Chesna died as a hero, the flag is not an example of racism, the flag is to honor our fallen heroes killed in the line of duty protecting residents of Weymouth,” the petition said in its entirety.
Lindblom told WFXT that he didn’t understand the argument being made by the students who wanted to ban Thin Blue Line imagery.
And Lindblom said he doesn’t see that flag as something political.
“Law enforcement isn’t politics,” he explained to WFXT. “Politics is presidents, mayors, senators, it’s all that. Police don’t get voted to do that job, they selected to do that job and they support what you do in the town.”
Lindblom said his petition has received a lot of support, including from his high school’s football team which flies the Thin Blue Line flag before games.
“I had a coach who texted me and said, ‘this means a lot, this was really good of you, I wish I could have done this, but at least you spoke up and did something about it,’” he said.
Lindblom’s petition had almost 8,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
The petition to ban the Thin Blue Line flag had just over 2,300 signatures at the same time.
Superintendent of Weymouth Schools Dr. Jennifer Curtis-Whipple released a statement on Monday, KFXT reported.
“We were recently made aware of student petitions being circulated in the community regarding expressive speech and symbolism,” Curtis-Whipple’s statement read.
“We understand the differing perspectives surrounding modern social topics and the resulting profound emotions and feelings. We will continue to have conversations around these complex issues. We are committed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all of our students and staff in the Weymouth School District,” the statement read.
Kolwaite said school administrators included him in a meeting to discuss the issue on Jan. 25, KFXT reported.
But he said he wasn’t confident that the administration would take action or give in to his demands.