Washington school district's ban on 'Thin Blue Line' Flag based on Jan. 6, use by 'hate groups'

The district says 'Thin Blue Line' symbols have been used by 'hate groups'

A school district in Washington state that ordered a teacher to remove a pro-police "Thin Blue Line" flag from her classroom cited the Charlottesville rally and Jan. 6 riot as motivation for doing so, saying the flags have been used by "hate groups."

"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 US Capital [sic]," interim superintendent of the Marysville School district Chris Pearson said in a letter to families and staff, which was obtained by Fox News. 

"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," the letter, dated Monday, continued. 

The superintendent also noted that the pro-police flag, "can be interpreted in a variety of ways by students who come from very diverse backgrounds." 

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The message comes after an anonymous teacher said she was forced to take down a pro-police flag in her classroom over claims it is a "political symbol," while messages supporting Black Lives Matter and LGBT pride flags are allowed in the school. 

"They told her that it's controversial to have that flag up. That it makes kids and staff feel unsafe, which to me, that does not make sense at all," the teacher’s brother, former police officer Chris Sutherland, told "The Jason Rantz Show" on KTTH of the situation. 

Photo showing "Thin Blue Line" flag that was ordered to be removed from Marysville Middle School classroom in Washington

Photo showing "Thin Blue Line" flag that was ordered to be removed from Marysville Middle School classroom in Washington (Jason Rantz)

"There's also, she was telling me, BLM stuff hanging on walls, which she was told is OK. Just for whatever reason, just the Thin Blue Line flag cannot be hung up there," Sutherland, who was also a resource officer during the fatal Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting in 2014, added.

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The letter to families addressed questions about why BLM - which took part in riots and protests last year following the death of George Floyd - and pride flags are allowed and not pro-police flags, saying they can hold a "specific educational purpose." 

"In a school context, and related to the aforementioned policies, these other two symbols can be seen as having a specific educational purpose that is directly aligned with instructional objectives or extracurricular programs. For example, our students participate in several different extracurricular leadership activities, including our Black Student Union, Latino Student Union, LGBTQIA+ Club, to name a few. In these cases, these symbols, or others like them, can be appropriate in a school setting," the letter added. 

Pearson also noted in the letter "that our relationship with the Marysville Police Department continues to be a strong and positive one," and the district is "very grateful for our local law enforcement and the support they provide our district and schools."

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The teacher initially posted the "Thin Blue Line" flag to honor her brother, and also has a gay pride flag in her classroom to support a gay relative.

The teacher reluctantly removed the "Thin Blue Line" flag from her classroom after the district's order to do so, but detailed in a message to HR that the ordeal "has been the most traumatic and hostile" situation she’s experienced at the school. 

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"It's hurtful because I can hear in her voice how much it actually hurts her being told to [take down the flag]," Sutherland said. "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 school has not responded to Fox News’s multiple requests for comment on the matter.