SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – Several members of the community addressed the William S. Hart Union High School Board about displaying the Thin Blue Line flag at Saugus High football games, but no action was taken and the debate continues Thursday about whether it is appropriate.
Representatives from the Santa Clarita branch of the NAACP and the father of the player who carried the Thin Blue Line flag on the field at College of the Canyons before Friday’s football game told the board members at the meeting on Wednesday night their thoughts on displaying the flag.
The Hart district superintendent said last month the Saugus High School football team can no longer use the Thin Blue Line flag at games in its pregame ceremonies, echoing a decision made by the team’s coach.
The decision has created an emotional debate and tensions between members of the community, administrators, school board members, players and students.
The school board heard comments from members of the community at the meeting, but it was not an item on the agenda. Superintendent Mike Kuhlman said the item needed to be properly added to the agenda, and the flag issue was not on the agenda because it was posted before the football game on Friday night.
“The Governing Board can however choose to consider new or revised Board Policy at a future meeting,” Kuhlman said in a statement. “The Board Agenda is set by the Board President in consultation with the Superintendent. I stand ready to work with the Board President on properly agendizing this subject if this is the Governing Board’s desire. The action in question from Friday night appears to involve the violation of a team rule. Any potential disciplinary response can be addressed at the site level. I know that the Principal and the Athletic staff are aware and are following up. I do hope our focus and attention can remain on the kids — celebrating the outstanding performance of the Saugus Football team as they head into this first round of CIF playoffs.”
A Saugus High football player carried the Thin Blue Line flag, a black and white replica of the American flag with a single blue line as one of the stripes, in the pregame introductions before the game between Saugus and Golden Valley at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Friday night. Saugus won the game, 31-13.
Both teams earned berths in the CIF Southern Section football playoffs that start on Friday night. Saugus plays Millikan High School from Long Beach in a first-round game at College of the Canyons.
Some see the flag as a way to support law enforcement. Others see it as a symbol to combat the Black Lives Matter movement and a symbol used by white supremacist and extremist groups.
Kuhlman said, in a letter sent to the community in September, that use of the flag has become controversial.
“Just three short days ago, I became aware of a concern about this symbol being flown at Saugus High School football games,” Kuhlman wrote in the letter dated Sept. 28. “Despite emails for immediate action, and threats of consequences if certain steps weren’t taken within a specific timeline, we determined to take our time to understand the issue accurately and to respond thoughtfully.”
Saugus High Principal Geni Peterson Henry told the Los Angeles Times in September she met with football coach Jason Bornn, who said he “was not even fully aware of the banners in question” and added that the team did not agree to using the flag before games.
“…(It) occurred to (Bornn) that it’s possible that some players on the team might not be entirely enthusiastic about a symbol that is being used to represent the entire team,” Kuhlman wrote.
Bornn decided to discontinue the use of the flag “in deference to his commitment to inclusivity, kindness and respect…” the Times reported.
Kuhlman wrote in his letter to the community that the district is exploring alternative methods to show support for law enforcement.
“Please note that this decision does not translate into a change in support for law enforcement,” Kuhlman wrote. “The degree of enthusiasm behind our District’s backing of law enforcement is not measured by the acceptance or rejection of any one particular symbol.”