Updated: Travelers Rest principal, police chief, student issue statements on football game flag controversy

Update: Travelers Rest Police Chief Lance Crowe and Travelers Rest High School student Alivia Waynick released statements, both of which are included below.

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. — Travelers Rest High School principal Lou Lavely has issued the following statement after a student reportedly was not allowed to carry a flag into the stadium at Friday night's home game against Berea.

Statement from Travelers Rest High School Principal Lou Lavely:

"Some events at [Friday] 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 [Friday'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
Travelers Rest HS

Statement from Police Chief Lance Crowe:

"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
Travelers Rest Police Dept.

Travelers Rest High School student Alivia Waynick has released the following statement via Facebook:

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."

Greenville County Schools