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School Bans Staff From Wearing Shirt Honoring Murdered Police Detective

Pelham, NY – The daughter of a New York City Transit police detective who was murdered in the line of duty is speaking out after a local school superintendent banned staff from wearing a shirt that was created in honor of her slain father.

Carla Caccavale, 44, was just 20 days old when her father, 33-year-old New York City Transit Police Detective George Caccavale, was fatally shot while working a second job at a check cashing business in the Long Island City neighborhood, the New York Daily News reported.

The men who murdered the 11-year department veteran were members of the Black Liberation Army, The Chief Leader reported.

In 2019, the New York Police Department (NYPD) named one of its police dogs K9 Vale in honor of the slain detective.

Carla commemorated the tribute by having 13 sweatshirts made for several of her father’s fellow officers and many of her family members, according to the New York Daily News.

The shirts, which feature an NYPD Transit Bureau K9 patch, a Thin Blue Line flag, and the words “In honor of Detective George Caccavale,” quickly became so popular that Carla ordered more to use as a fundraiser for various law enforcement charities.

At least six Pelham Public Schools (PPS) officials were among those who purchased the memorial shirts, the New York Daily News reported.

Everything seemed to be going well until late October, when PPS Superintendent Cheryl Champ sent out an email banning staff from wearing pro-police masks and clothing, which she claimed were “threatening in nature,” according to News12.

But Champ simultaneously allowed students and staff to wear “Black Lives Matter” attire, to include shirts that listed the names of people killed during incidents with police, FOX News reported.

PPS staff members said that they were told by district officials that the Thin Blue Line flag was a symbol of white supremacy, Carla told Fox & Friends.

On Nov. 3, the superintendent sent out another email further explaining her ban on pro-police symbols.

“I recognize that in these heightened political times, these decisions, which were made on a case-by-case basis, have become intertwined and perceived by some to reflect a political leaning on behalf of myself and the district,” Champ wrote, according to the New York Daily News.

“Like many symbols whose meaning has been co-opted over time, the thin blue line flag has increasingly been perceived by students to be threatening in nature, causing them to feel unsafe within our schools,” she said.

Carla told Fox & Friends during an interview on Tuesday that it made no sense for PPS to ban pro-police attire while permitting people to wear Black Lives Matter garb.

“It’s hard for me to explain to my children…why a sweatshirt honoring their grandfather is no longer allowed,” she said.

Champ ended up receiving a slew of complaints about the unequal ban, according to News12.

Among them were NYPD Detectives Union President Paul DiGiacomo, who told Champ her ban was an “obscenity” and that she was “perverting” students’ “views about policing in America” and turning them into “cop haters,” the New York Daily News reported.

DiGiacomo slammed Champ for her “decision to ban any graphic or logo that honors the profession of policing or memorializes members of the service who have been killed in the line of duty,” according to The Chief Leader.

“These are personal and deeply felt family memorials that you’ve somehow turned into ‘threatening political speech,’” he wrote.

“At the same time, you’ve decided that the 1960s symbol of a ‘Black Power’ fist is not political, and that listing the names of people who died during the commission of a crime, being questioned by police, or while resisting arrest isn’t political, either, and are permissible to wear,” the union leader added.

Champ ultimately pivoted on Nov. 12, when she issued another email to staff admitting that “decisions made last week did not evenly support our ideals of political neutrality,” according to the New York Daily News.

The superintendent then prohibited all attire that could possibly be construed as being politically-related, to include “social movements such as those represented in schools last week on T-shirts and masks,” the New York Daily News reported.

She said the ban does not extend to students, according to the paper.

Carla said Champ could have used the controversy as a “teachable moment,” but instead ended up “dividing our town,” FOX News reported.

“We’re a very, very small town that now is incredibly divided over this,” she explained. “And there was an opportunity here to bridge instead of burning down the bridge to help this.”

Carla said she was stunned by the district’s hypocrisy, and was especially frustrated that Champ didn’t alter her stance until after the election, The Chief Leader reported.

“We are continuing our fight,” Carla told Fox & Friends. “We would like to see a more formal apology. To say that, ‘well now both are banned – you should be happy’ is not enough.”

“To make such a broad, sweeping decision and make such a huge misstep when you are running the district, in charge of educating an entire district, is incredible, and as educators, they should be able to look at all four symbols on this sweatshirt in the context in which they were intended,” she added.

Carla said all of the proceeds received from the 150 memorial sweatshirts she originally ordered were donated to help NYPD widows and children, as well as the retired K9s program.

Since the controversy with PPS erupted, she’s received orders for over 400 more sweatshirts to help further the cause, Carla told Fox & Friends.

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Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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