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High school football team defies school district’s order, flies ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag before game

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Tarek Fattal

Los Angeles Daily News

Many in the Saugus High football community — parents, students and supporters — wore T-shirts that displayed the “Thin Blue Line” American flag across the back and the words “THE BLUE HAD OUR BACKS NOW WE BACK YOURS!!” on the front Friday night.

The gesture was in response to the team being told it could no longer run onto the field before games carrying the “thin blue line” version of American flag. The decision ultimately came from Saugus head coach Jason Bornn, according to William S. Hart Unified School District superintendent Mike Kuhlman.

“In deference to (Bornn’s) commitment to inclusivity, kindness and respect (just loving people), and because the team never voted as a unit to carry this banner, Coach decided to discontinue this practice,” said Kuhlman’s release to the community on Sept. 28.

The words “thin blue line” is a reference adopted by law enforcement professionals in the 1950s to represent their courage and sacrifice while protecting the American people. The “Thin Blue Line” emblem was established to symbolize all law enforcement personnel, similar to the Red Cross symbol representing all medical personnel, according to FlagsofValor.com, a company that sells flags and supports veterans.

However, the flag has become controversial. Its use has grown as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement that protested police violence. Some still see it as a symbol of solidarity with law enforcement, and others see it as a symbol of white supremacy. It’s been used by people representing both groups.

“Here are two statements that are true about the Hart District: 1) We support law enforcement and deeply appreciate their work to keep our community safe. 2) We foster a culture of inclusivity, kindness and respect,” Kuhlman wrote in his statement. “The controversy has generated strong feelings on all sides of this issue. Many of the loudest voices appear to be suggesting that we must choose to support one or the other of these two statements – as if they are on opposite sides of a political spectrum. I’d like to suggest that it is possible for our community to actively support both statements listed above.”

For many members of the Saugus community, the “Thin Blue Line” flag correlates directly with the school shooting that occurred on Nov. 14, 2019, which resulted in three deaths. The seniors at the school now were freshmen that fall.

Todd Cataldi, who is a retired police officer and whose son plays on the Saugus football team, was wearing one of the T-shirts Friday night as Saugus played Hart High at College of the Canyons.

“It’s unfortunate,” Cataldi said about the team ending its routine of carrying the “Thin Blue Line” flag as it runs onto the field. “These kids went through a lot when they were freshmen with the school shooting, and there are several kids on the team whose parents work in law enforcement and are first responders and want to show their support for them.”

In a recent Facebook post, local Santa Clarita Valley resident Duncan Mandel insisted the school district do something about Saugus running onto the field with the flag.

“There is absolutely no reason for this image to be carried out onto the field by players or used on cheer blocks,” the post read. “Get loud. What message are we sending to our kids if we sit back and allow this divisiveness to continue. Do something! This is simply not a First Amendment issue.”

Saugus last carried the flag onto the field Sept. 23 against West Ranch. The team did not run out with the flag against Hart.

“I think our boys should be able to represent their family members that are police officers and first responders that came out and put their lives on the line on that dreadful day,”  said Saugus parent Lorri Moore, alluding to the school shooting. “I think it should’ve been discussed and voted on.”

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