Marysville, WA – A middle school teacher was ordered to remove from her classroom a Thin Blue Line flag in honor of her brother and called it a “political symbol” while permitting Black Lives Matter signage and LGBT pride materials to be posted.
The teacher’s brother, Chris Sutherland, told Jason Rantz on KTTH that the incident occurred at Marysville Middle School where his sister is a teacher.
Sutherland was an officer with Marysville Police Department.
He was serving as a school resource officer when the fatal Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting occurred, KTTH reported.
Initially, the teacher put a Thin Blue Line sticker on her laptop in support of her brother and other local law enforcement, according to Sutherland.
The Thin Blue Line has been used for about 75 years to honor police officers who have died in the line of duty. In more recent years, the Thin Blue Line flag has been flown to show support for members of law enforcement.
Sutherland told Rantz that an assistant principal objected to the sticker.
A Human Resources document obtained by KTTH showed the assistant principal told the teacher 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.”
But Sutherland said his sister said those objections went away.
Not long after that, she put up a Thin Blue Line flag on her bulletin board in her classroom, KTTH reported.
Sutherland said his sister posted pictures of him around the flag in an effort to tell his story.
He said another assistant principal told her she had to take it down, KTTH reported.
“They told her that it’s controversial to have that flag up,” Sutherland told Rantz. “That it makes kids and staff feel unsafe, which to me, that does not make sense at all.”
A human resources representative from the school district sent Sutherland’s sister a Letter of Clarification about her actions, KTTH reported.
The letter said the school district was “highly concerned about the impact of this political symbol on students, staff, and families of Marysville Middle School.”
Also, an assistant principal “had heard concerns from other staff members about how this political symbol might negatively impact the overall professional work environment,” according to the document.
The letter did not explain what the problem was with the Thin Blue Line flag specifically but threatened “further disciplinary action” should the teacher not comply with the directive to cease the display of the flag honoring law enforcement, KTTH reported.
The school district refused to answer questions about why it permitted political expressions in the form of criticism of law enforcement.
Sutherland said his sister said there have been Black Lives Matter displays on bulletin boards in classrooms in the school, KTTH reported.
Black Lives Matter is a political organization.
“There’s also, she was telling me, BLM stuff hanging on walls, which she was told is okay,” he told Rantz. “Just for whatever reason, just the Thin Blue Line flag cannot be hung up there.”
The former police officer said his sister has previously displayed a gay pride flag in honor or a family member and the school district had no objection to that, KTTH reported.
The teacher had no choice but to take down the Thin Blue Line flag if she wanted to keep her job, her brother told the radio host.
In one of the human resources documents obtained by KTTH, she called the controversy “the most traumatic and hostile” she’s ever had at Marysville Middle School.
“I was proud to come back as a Marysville Alumni and begin teaching here in 2014. I remain hopeful for the remainder of the school year,” she wrote in response to human resources.
The teacher said she was hurt by the reaction to the flag by the school administrators, KTTH reported.
“It’s hurtful because I can hear in her voice how much it actually hurts her being told to [take down the flag],” Sutherland told Rantz. “So when [she] and I talk about it, back and forth, it’s frustrating because I know how much she cares and how much this means to her. For her to have to go through that… it’s just not fair.”
The Marysville School District blamed the Charlottesville rally and the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol for its decision to ban the Thin Blue Line flag, FOX News reported.
“While it might be viewed by some as a tribute to police, this symbol was also used by hate groups in the 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, and was also carried by rioters during the January 6th attacks on the [U.S. Capitol],” Marysville School District Interim Superintendent Chris Pearson said in a letter to the school community.
The Black Lives Matter flag has been carried by violent rioters throughout the country, but did not get the came criticism from the superintendent.
“Therefore, without any educational context or purpose, the display of this symbol in a school classroom cannot be reasonably divorced from the political meanings that have been attached to its varied uses and, as a result, may send a mixed or even disruptive message to staff, students and families,” Pearson wrote.
The superintendent said in the letter obtained by FOX News that the Thin Blue Line flag “can be interpreted in a variety of ways by students who come from very diverse backgrounds.”