School Superintendent: 13-Star 'Betsy Ross' Flag Injects 'Hostility' and 'Hate'

Superintendent laments not just partisan politics, but patriotic symbol too

Students at a Sept. 9 high school football game created a controversy by waving a political sign and a historical American flag. Photo is from a Facebook post of Matthew Patulski.

A Michigan public school superintendent wrote in a published “letter to the community” that students at a high school football game injected “hate” and “hostility” because they waved a historical Betsy Ross flag that has 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies.

The students waved the flag at a Sept. 9 football game at Houseman Field between Forest Hills Central and Ottawa Hills. The students also brought a Donald Trump for President banner to the event.

The superintendent received a complaint from a parent and then published the letter which is dated Sept. 12. 

“And to wave a historical version of our flag, that to some symbolizes exclusion and hate, injects hostility and confusion to an event where no one intended to do so,” Forest Hills Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Behm wrote.

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Behm continued with an apology: "To our gracious hosts — the students, families, staff, and community of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School and Grand Rapids Public Schools — and to the student-athletes, coaches, officials, and supporters of both teams, we are truly sorry. These actions are not characteristic of our schools, our staff, our students, or our community, and they represent a lack of knowledge."

Forest Hills Public Schools released a statement that said the students wouldn’t be disciplined for the Betsy Ross flag and “it will be used as a teachable moment.”

The district said if the act occurs again, “Each situation would be addressed individually and in the context in which it occurs.”

Tim Bowen, who sells historical flags for the Little Rock, Arkansas company Flagandbanner.com, called the condemnation of the Betsy Ross flag “deplorable.”

“It is a historical flag. It was never used as a symbol of hate,” Bowen said. “This person needs to take a history lesson.”

Ronald Hall, a professor at Michigan State University and an expert on racial relations, didn’t return an email seeking comment. Daniel Valentine, spokesman for the national NAACP, said he sent an email from Michigan Capitol Confidential to Yvonne White, who is the president of the Michigan State Conference of the NAACP. White didn’t respond.

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