CHARDON, Ohio — The Chardon Police Department and Chardon Local Schools created a security plan ahead of expected demonstrations before the football game Friday night. The demonstrations are in response to Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr. deciding to ban the ‘thin blue line’ flag at school events. The Black Lives Matter event in Chardon canceled their protest out of respect for Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz, who was killed in the line of duty, the group confirmed in a Facebook post.
"The safety and security of every member of our school community is our highest priority,” said Hanlon. “We appreciate the work of Chief Niehus and other law enforcement officials in developing an action plan for tonight’s event that prioritizes a safe evening for everyone as well as placing a focus appropriately on the Hilltopper Varsity Football contest.”
The district is making an area available on the school grounds that will be designated as a free speech zone for demonstrators in support of police.
“I spoke with organizers of both rallies and established expectations for peaceful and responsible demonstrations,” said Chardon Police Chief Scott Niehus. Those comments were made before Chardon BLM announced the cancellation of their scheduled rally out of respect for Skernivitz, who was shot and killed in the line of duty Thursday night.
Parking will be available as normal for those going to the game. Personnel will be on-site to assist in directing ticket holders to the appropriate stadium entrance.
"Because the District values and supports the rights of individuals to gather and exercise their free speech rights, school leaders worked closely with Chardon Police to locate a Free Speech Zone on the lawn in front of Chardon High School. The District is not a sponsor or participant in the rally," the district said.
Due to COVID-19 measures, the district is limiting access to the stadium and there will be no general admission tickets for the game. Social distancing is strongly encouraged.
Read the full letter here.
On Thursday, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police's president, Gary Wolske, wrote a letter to Chardon Local Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr. asking him to reconsider his ban on the use of the "thin blue line" flag at school events.
The request comes a day after Geauga County Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri released a letter calling on Hanlon to resign over the matter.