A New York school district banned its staff from wearing a sweatshirt with a thin blue line patch designed in honor of an NYPD officer who was shot dead in 1976.
Cheryl Champ, the Pelham Public Schools superintendent, sent a message to employees informing them that the flag was banned, as it “has increasingly been perceived by students to be threatening in nature,” and has been making them feel “unsafe.”
The sweatshirt, designed by 44-year-old Carla Caccavale, daughter of late Transit Police Detective George Caccavale, was sold to raise money for police charities. This came after a K-9 dog was named Vale as a tribute to her late father.
However, after several Pelham school officials bought the sweatshirts, Champ emailed them to inform them that the sweatshirts, as well as masks with the thin blue line, were banned. No other movements were banned in Champ’s initial email.
Carla stated that she “is not into politics at all,” and that, “This was never about politics. It was about honoring my father.”
Carla was 20 days old when her father, aged 33, died while working at his second job at a check cashing store.
She stated: “This is not Black Lives Matter versus police. This was never the intent when we created the sweatshirt.”
In a follow-up email sent on November 3, Champ wrote: “I recognize that in these heightened political times, these decisions, which were made on a case-by-case basis, have become intertwined and perceived by some to reflect a political leaning on behalf of myself and the district. Like many symbols whose meaning has been co-opted over time, the thin blue line flag has increasingly been perceived by students to be threatening in nature, causing them to feel unsafe within our schools.”
When Paul DiGiacomo, president of the NYPD’s detectives union took issue with the ban, Champ seemingly changed her stance, writing: “Decisions made last week did not evenly support our ideals of political neutrality.”
She then issued a directive stating that staff members were not to wear anything considered political, including those supporting “social movements such as those represented in our schools last week on T-shirts and masks.” The ban does not extend to the students.
The school district told Daily News: “This was specifically about disallowing staff attire displaying symbols considered to have political meaning, including, but not limited to the blue line flag.”
Carla added: “The issue is still that a blue line flag is not political.”