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Residents rally in support of student suspended over controversial flag (7 photos)

Friends, family and local residents came out in a show of support for BDHS student Carson Young who was suspended last week for refusing to take down the thin blue line flag from his truck

Friends, family and residents rallied in Bradford Tuesday morning to show their support for Bradford District High School (BDHS) student Carson Young who says he was suspended from school for three days for refusing to take down a 'thin blue line' flag from his truck. 

Around 30 cars with thin blue line flags showed up at the Canadian Tire parking lot at 7:30 a.m., where they lined up and drove around the block of the school before Young headed back to class for the first time since Wednesday. Some of the flags were donated by local business Bearded Hooligan, and some were purchased by the Young family on Amazon. 

"It is not a protest, it is a show of support," said Carson's dad, Rick Young, who is a civilian volunteer member of the South Simcoe Police Service's Auxiliary Unit. "This is all about Carson showing support for his family."

Carson says he flies the flag in support of his family, many of who work in law enforcement: his mom Kim who is a Barrie police officer, his aunt who is an OPP officer, and his father and sister who are auxiliary officers with South Simcoe Police. His grandfather was also a 31-year-year veteran officer with Toronto Police Services. 

The thin blue line symbol is a black and white Canadian flag with a solid blue line running through it, symbolizing the line officers walk daily between life and death. 

The symbol has become controversial over the past few years, more so in the United States, in light of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and talks of defunding police and redirecting funding to social services. Critics also argue the flag puts out an "us-versus-them" divisive mentality. 

But the family doesn't agree. 

"The flag is about inclusiveness (and) diversity. Police services nowadays are all diverse of different ethnic cultures and backgrounds," said Kim. "My sister is a gay police officer, we support all flags, and everyone has the right to express their belief."

The local police services do not recognize the thin blue line symbol on their uniform. 

The Grade 12 student says the flag has been affixed to the truck since June 2021, when he obtained his G2 licence. 

He says he never heard any negative feedback about the flag, until the end of September when his principal, David Brooks, told him to take the flag down, after receiving a complaint from someone at Nantyr Shores high school in Innisfil during a football game. 

When Carson challenged the principal on his request to take down the flag, he says he was asked to write a letter stating his reasons for flying it. 

Carson penned a letter to the principal and superintendent Dean Maltby, explaining his reasons for flying the flag. 

"The flag shows support for these people in my life, as well as the other law enforcement officers who are in the 'line' of duty, and who 'walk the line' every day," he wrote in the letter. "They serve and protect not only our community but our country's safety and freedom."

Carson says he never got a response from the principal or superintendent and continued to drive his truck to school with the flag affixed to the back. 

The family says they asked the school principal and superintendent why Carson couldn't fly his flag and was told it was due to school policy, but when the family asked for a copy of the policy they said they did not receive a reply.

"It has now been seven weeks since we asked....and the superintendent Dean Maltby has not even had the courtesy to reply to Carson's email," said Rick. 

Last Wednesday, Carson says the principal told him again to remove the flag. When Carson refused, he says he was suspended for three days, which prompted his mother to share the story on social media. 

Her post generated a lot of feedback from the community, some supporting Carson and his decision to keep the flag, and others who agreed with the school board's decision to suspend him. 

His dad Rick says the punishment his son received was "just not right." 

"He was suspended because he is proud of his family and flying a flag in support; we don't understand why. No child should have their education suspended for three days because they're proud of their family," he said. 

When Carson and his mother Kim met with the school board over the weekend to discuss the suspension, Kim says they told her the flag was "divisive" and "polarizing" and the reason for Carson's suspension as written was for 'opposition to authority'. 

Rick says he is very disappointed with the outcome and hopes this situation will serve as an opportunity for dialogue about the flag policy at schools.

Justin Brown, Carson's best friend, was at the rally on Tuesday. The pair have known each other since they were tots. Brown's father also works in law enforcement. 

He called the suspension "ridiculous," noting there was no policy provided on the reasoning for his friend's suspension.

Resident Sammy Burry, her husband and two children also came out early Tuesday morning to show their support for Carson. 

Burry says she was "infuriated" when she heard about Carson's suspension. 

"He shouldn't be put down and suspended for something he believes in," she said. "These guys (her kids) should be looking up to them (police), not fearing them."

Carson did take down the flag before entering the school property on Tuesday. He says he didn't want to jeopardize his education. 

"They told us that he would be trespassing and he would have to find alternate schooling" if he didn't take down the flag, explained Kim.  

BradfordToday contacted BDHS principal David Brooks for comment for this story but was redirected to the school board. The board did not respond to a request for comment for this story. 

Bradford Mayor Rob Keffer denounced the use of the thin blue line symbol in a post on social media yesterday, noting that over time, the symbol has taken on darker, negative connotations that have strayed considerably from its original message of supporting law enforcement. 

"We need to be sensitive to the fact that symbols like the thin blue line are now hurtful to many within our community and have no place here," he wrote. 

His comments have received a mix of backlash and support from community members. 

Carson said he was looking forward to getting back to class on Tuesday to see his friends and teachers. He and his family said they will be appealing the suspension and are currently in talks with counsel. 

Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Community Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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