Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer has removed a social media post he made Monday evening, denouncing the use of the thin blue line symbol in the community after a local high school student was suspended last week for refusing to take down a flag with the emblem on it.
Keffer's post received more than 100 comments, many accusing the mayor of not being supportive of local police.
On Wednesday morning, Keffer made another Facebook post explaining why he decided to remove his original post.
"The police both here in South Simcoe and across this country have nothing but my greatest respect, admiration and support, and I have ensured that Chief Andrew Fletcher and his staff know that," he wrote. "My previous post has unfortunately become a lightning rod for further divisiveness, so after careful consideration I have decided to remove it."
He added: "My intention is, as always, to promote understanding between people in our community, even if not always (in) agreement. As I said previously, this has been an educational experience for us all, including myself, and I hope that we can all work together to empathize with and accept one another without anger or hate."
When contacted about the removal of the post, Caleigh Clubine, community relations officer for the town, responded on behalf of the mayor to explain why the post was taken down.
"Our social media policy does not allow posts that personally attack either town staff or one another, so given the turn the comments were taking, we decided that it was best to remove the post rather than addressing individual messages," she said.
The suspension of Bradford District High School student Carson Young, whose mother is a Barrie police officer, has been a subject of controversy over the past week with community members disagreeing about the origins and meaning behind the thin blue line symbol.
Carson, who comes from a family who work in law enforcement, says the flag is a way to show his support for his family and those in law enforcement.
Over the past few years, the symbol has become controversial with critics arguing the flag puts out an "us-versus-them" (police vs. the public) divisive mentality.
When a complaint was received about the flag by someone from an Innisfil high school at a school football game in September, the principal told Carson the flag needed to be removed.
Carson challenged the request, saying the principal asked him to write a letter explaining his reasons for flying the flag, which he did, describing his support for the many family members working in the policing field.
He says the letter was sent to the principal and superintendent, but he never received a response, so he continued to keep flying the flag on his truck.
It was last Wednesday he says the principal told him to remove the flag again, which he refused. That's when he was suspended for three days for "opposition to authority" and was told the flag was "divisive" and "polarizing."
Carson's parents, Rick and Kim, stood by their son's decision to keep the flag and joined him in a rally of support with community members Tuesday morning in the Canadian Tire plaza in Bradford, where vehicles lined up with thin blue line flags hanging out their windows while driving around the block. Carson then headed back to class with the flag removed.
On Tuesday morning, his family says they are currently in talks with counsel over the issue and hope this will be an opportunity for education on flag policies at the school.
The principal and school board did not respond to BradfordToday's request for comment on the story.