Supporters and those who oppose the flag ask Hart school board to take action
There were a few tense moments throughout the William S. Hart Union High School District’s governing board meeting Wednesday night as community members voiced their opinions on the reappearance of the “Thin Blue Line” flag.
The board voted to agendize the item to discuss the controversy in public at a future board meeting. Two members of the district’s governing board made remarks regarding the controversy.
Linda Storli, who represents Trustee Area No. 1, said there are good things happening in the district, but also some things the district needs to work on – then referred to the Thin Blue Line flag situation.
“I’m hoping we can do that with discussions. I’ve also had a lot of contacts on both sides of the Thin Blue Line,” Storli said. “I think we need to have an open conversation about that.”
“We have to properly agendize the item,” she added.
The governing board has not officially discussed nor made a decision regarding the controversy, but as the issue continues, members of the board have noted they may look to agendize the item for a future meeting.
Joe Messina, who represents Trustee Area No. 5 and is the presiding officer of the board, said people have communicated with the district stating the flag has no place at high school football games.
However, Messina believes that is not true, and it is within people’s constitutional rights to fly the flag, if they wish.
“The thing that bothers me the most is the underlying tone that we’re accusing our kids, our students of… racism,” Messina said. “That is wrong.”
“There’s no reason to call these kids these things,” he added. “These need to be learning moments.”
The Thin Blue Line flag, intended by players as a sign of support for law enforcement, was brought onto the field, once again, by a lone Saugus high football player during the Centurions’ game against Golden Valley on Friday. Another player ran alongside him carrying the U.S. flag.
Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the Hart district, announced in late-September the team would no longer be allowed to carry the flag after the district received complaints that the flag, which has been appropriated by far-right activists, was deemed divisive.
Some community members have said the flag is merely a symbol of support for law enforcement, and the Saugus High football team should be allowed to fly it during their games.
Those who support the flag reiterated it is especially relevant for Saugus due to the campus shooting in November 2019, when law enforcement officers converged upon the campus to protect students from a shooter who ultimately killed two fellow Saugus students before turning the gun on himself.
During public comment Wednesday night, parents, concerned community members and students presented their support or opposition regarding the controversy amid cheers, jeers and bursts of disruptions.
Martha Aguilera, of Santa Clarita, whose daughter is a current student at Saugus High, came to the meeting to act for unity and in support of the flag.
“It was never created as a hate symbol,” Aguilera said. “Now we have an obligation to educate our students. We have this opportunity to do that, to teach them, about the history behind what the symbol actually means.”
“This left and right, it’s hurting our kids. It’s hurting our football games, and it’s hurting our community.”
Other speakers in support of the flag cited freedom of speech, supporting law enforcement and the history of the flag in support of allowing the flag to be flown at games.
Valerie Bradford, president of the NAACP of the Santa Clarita Valley, addressed the board stating “there is no reason for the Thin Blue Line flag to be found on school campus.”
Community members who opposed the flag cited white supremacy associated with the flag as a reason not to allow it on the field.
Jason Viger, father of Jacob – running back for Saugus’ football team, who carried the Thin Blue Line flag before Friday’s game – came to meeting to provide context for his son’s action.
“He carries the flag for a very specific reason,” Viger said.
According to Viger, in their family they have a long family history of working in military or law enforcement. He noted that if his son receives punishment for his action, then so be it, though he would not agree with the decision.
The district has not said whether Viger would be punished for violating the prior decision on the flag.
Although each side presented their different opinions on the controversy, there was a single point of agreement – students are being affected.
Danielle Cox, the student board member and Golden Valley High School senior, addressed the controversy, too. She reported there has been an increase in division and polarization among students.
“I wholeheartedly agree that this should be a teachable moment. It’s important to have an intellectual conversation where we understand one another rather than these constant arguments and these constant pushes for political agenda through this specific situation,” she said. “I encourage everyone when they’re talking about this situation to respect one another and remember that we are all humans.”