Principal responds to controversy over flags at football game

TRAVELERS REST, SC (WSPA) – The principal of Travelers Rest High School released a statement Saturday afternoon after complaints on social media after a students were not allowed to bring American flags to a football game Friday night.

Saturday evening Greenville County Schools released a statement saying the district “encourages and supports the appropriate display of the United States Flag in accord with the United States Flag Code.” The statement went on to say that the district, “[does] not condone the use of the Flag to shield unsportsmanlike or inappropriate conduct.” Read the full statement below.

Several social media posts state that students were denied entry to the Travelers Rest/Berea football game because they were trying to bring Americans flags inside the stadium.

Principal Lou Lavely said in his statement that his decision was to “not allow the American flag to be used in an improper ‘taunting,’ unsportsmanlike manner.”

Later, Berea High School’s Principal Mike Noel released a statement in support of Lavely. Read his full statement below.

Travelers Rest Police Chief Lance Crowe also released a statement on Sunday explaining his officer’s involvement in the flag matter. Read his full statement below.

Read Lavely’s full statement:

Many of you have inquired about posts on social media making reference to events at last night’s Travelers Rest/Berea football game. Below is the official statement from TRHS Principal Lou Lavely.

Some events at last evening’s football game have resulted in concerns being raised in our community. I am writing to assure that any decisions made regarding American flags being permitted into the game were made in the best interests of all attending the game and in the spirit of patriotism and respect for our flag.

Any decision to not allow the American flag to be used in an improper “taunting”, unsportsmanlike manner is first and foremost in the interests of promoting the safety and well-being of all in attendance at school events. This decision would be made anytime that the American flag, or any other symbol, sign, cheer, or action on the part of our fans would potentially compromise the safety of all in attendance at a school event.

Just as importantly, using the American flag to display disrespect and unsportsmanlike behavior, is in itself improper and disrespectful to our flag. Those in attendance at TRHS events from football and basketball to tennis and baseball know that I, along with our student body and community, have the utmost respect for our flag and strive to display the highest levels of patriotism. The American flag is properly displayed at our sporting stadiums and our announcers always ask the fans to stand and join in the singing of our national anthem before contests, which was most recently witnessed at last evening’s football game. Additionally, I have encouraged our student body to always show and respect our country, flag, and servicemen and women. Our student council honors the veterans on our faculty every year with large banners thanking them for their service and for the last two years our Spirit Week charity has been the Honor Flights – Greenville that provides free trips to veterans to visit the war memorials in Washington DC are just two examples of the commitment of our school to the proper displays of patriotism. I take my responsibility as an educator to teach our students the proper respect and values associated with our country, which entails supporting our students in the proper display of the flag as well as redirecting our students when they may make a mistake in displaying our flag improperly, very seriously. To be perfectly clear, I am 100% in support of the patriotism that our school and community display so well and so often, of our flag, and of our country. The American flag, or any other symbol of our great nation, is welcome to be displayed and honored at our school events as long as it displayed properly and it is not used in any form of parallel taunting or disrespect.

Lou Lavely
Principal
Travelers Rest HS

Full statement from Greenville County Schools:

Greenville County Schools encourages and supports the appropriate display of the United States Flag in accord with the United States Flag Code. We do not condone the use of the Flag to shield unsportsmanlike or inappropriate conduct. To allow such use is disrespectful to the Flag, the principles which it represents and the sacrifices of those who have and are serving to defend it. There is no ban at the school or district level on the appropriate display of the United States Flag but using it in a manner that is disrespectful to it or the principles it represents will be addressed if it occurs.

Full statement from Berea Principal Mike Noel:

I am in full support of Mr. Lavely’s actions at the football game on Friday night. He was protecting the greatest symbol of our nation, the American Flag. His decision was based on the premise that the American flag should not be used in a disrespectful or unsportsmanlike like manner. He made the right decision.

Mr. Lavely should be celebrated for his dedication to supporting our veterans and encouraging student to love and respect our great nation.

We educate our students on how to display good sportsmanship and to show respect to our opponents. Both teams played hard and should be celebrated for their efforts on the field. Both schools and communities need to embrace the spirit of competition in a positive manner, and show respect for each other’s achievements.

Mike Noel, Principal
Berea High School

Full statement from Travelers Rest Police Chief Lance Crowe:

It was my intention to wait and see if publishing a statement concerning the TRPD’s involvement in the flag incident at Friday’s game at the Travelers Rest High School would be warranted later this week. In watching this story unfold I have come to the conclusion that I need to respond sooner rather than later.

I have always valued my working relationship with the Greenville County School District. It has been my experience that it is staffed and administered by good people who care very much about the schools and the students under their care. We collaborate regularly on how best to ensure the safety and order within the schools and extracurricular activities. Just this afternoon one of the highest-level officials with the school district (who I have grown to consider a personal friend) called me to ask my opinion of the situation, to “check the pulse” as he put it. We were both very frank with each other and we had a very productive conversation. I would refer anyone with questions/concerns about the school district’s policies to the school district itself.

It seems to be the opinion of a vocal few that the TRPD, by being forced to intervene in this incident, somehow endorses the barring of the American flag from the game. That could not be further from the truth. To my knowledge, every TRPD officer, except one, believes that barring the American flag from a football game is not a correct policy. However, our officer’s involvement in this incident did not center on the flag, but in keeping the peace between a patron of the game and school staff. The school officials have the same option to trespass someone from the property under their control as any individual citizen. The reasons for the trespass are their own business and need to be take up with the high school or the school district, not the police officers who are bound to follow the law. The irony is that our officer pictured in the photograph making its rounds through social media is himself an Army veteran, and he disagrees with the position in which he found himself, but that cannot prevent him from doing his duty as a sworn guardian of the peace. Simply put, if the school administration has a policy that if not followed would result in a person being removed from the school property, the police have to intervene at that moment if the person refuses, especially if the person becomes overly argumentative during his protest. There is a time and place for expressing a difference of opinion and the entrance to the football game just wasn’t it at the time in question.

A close inspection of every TRPD patrol vehicle will find the American flag proudly displayed. That is not by accident and should speak about our view of our place in American society, but we are also sworn to keep the peace between two opposing sides of a disagreement, regardless of our personal feelings.

Chief Lance Crowe

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