Bridges of Pelham backs superintendent’s ban of political apparel for staff, including thin blue line flag

‘From what we know of Dr. Champ, she would never intentionally imply that any student be ashamed of having a family member in law enforcement. This, on its face, is ludicrous and offensive.’

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Editor’s note: This statement was provided by Bridges of Pelham.

Bridges of Pelham supports Dr. Champ’s decision disallowing the use of political speech/apparel by school staff and administrators, including but not limited to, the Thin Blue Line flag. We do not see her position as an anti-police stance, marked by dishonor to the men and women who dutifully serve the people of this community, many who are BIPOC as well. Dr. Champ’s decision stems from a genuine understanding of and empathy for marginalized communities, specifically BIPOC students within the district. However, we understand why her message may have initially been misconstrued or negatively perceived, especially for those who have friends and family members (Bridges of Pelham members included) who are in and support law enforcement. We are heartened to read the recent statement Dr. Champ released together with Detectives Hynes and Roberts and stand in support of their partnership.

As many others have shared, historically, in the U.S., the “Thin Blue Line” was adopted by law enforcement professionals to represent the sacrifice and courage of those who have taken a sworn duty to protect and serve. Sadly, that same symbol has been embraced by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in support of their own radical white nationalist agenda. It has been flown as a response in opposition of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is divisive and degrades the service of the good and dedicated police men and women who serve bravely. It creates a false equivalency between the experience of the police and the experience of unarmed BIPOC. The Thin Blue Line flag is the same symbol flown alongside the Confederate flag and swastika image which for many BIPOC and their allies can only be viewed as a racist symbol, rooted in generations of violence towards people based on the color of their skin.

Instead of attacking Dr. Champ, we will be better-served to reflect on why she would make such a decision. As she and the Board of Education have since communicated that students both from the BIPOC community and their supporters genuinely felt threatened by that symbol and appropriately shared their concerns with trusted school staff. It was thus Dr. Champ’s duty to respond accordingly. Such a student-centered approach to leadership is a quality one should embrace from those who lead our District. From what we know of Dr. Champ, she would never intentionally imply that any student be ashamed of having a family member in law enforcement. This, on its face, is ludicrous and offensive. One can see specific examples of the valued, respected role local law enforcement officers play in the District: ranging from running active shooter drills to patrolling nearby and facilitating the DARE program. Both the PPD and PMPD are integral in helping this District strive for excellence. Dr. Champ has stated such and has demonstrated the partnership between the school district and local law enforcement extensively over the past week.

School is supposed to be a safe space for all students. We implore all community members to put an end to false equivalencies. One of the reasons we live in this community is because we value safety and we respect the police. To the contrary of what some might suggest, we appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of our Police Departments. We also live here because we value our children and have the means to give them a great education in a safe and challenging school setting. However, when there is a choice between the needs of an adult to express political viewpoints and the needs of a student to learn and feel safe with all school employees, we choose our children, all of the children in Pelham. We are one community; let’s exemplify respect, patience, and cooperativeness and move towards a more inclusive community for all Pelham residents and their children.

Bridges of Pelham supports Dr. Champ in her efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and we welcome opportunities to discuss ways to move forward as a community, in support of all Pelham students. We understand that change is hard. We also know that it is inevitable and as human beings we do our best when we adapt and progress. As Pelham becomes more diverse, Bridges of Pelham will be present to make sure it also becomes more welcoming and inclusive for all of its residents.