Pro-Trump flag removed at Grosse Pointe football game

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Grosse Pointe Public Schools administrators are defending the confiscation of a banner supporting President Donald Trump's re-election campaign during a football game Friday at Grosse Pointe South High School.

A video posted on Facebook shows a person in the stands hanging a dark blue banner imprinted with white letters spelling "Trump 2020" over a railing, next to an American flag.

Comments on the Facebook post include numerous people saying that by removing the flag, the district violated attendees' free-speech rights. But Superintendent Gary Niehaus said Tuesday he has received no complaints about the removal of the flag, which he said was done in accordance with district policy.

“The only people who are calling have been the press,” Neihaus said in a phone interview. “We have not had one student or parent complain since this happened.”

The incident occurred during the Grosse Pointe South-Grosse Pointe North football game about 7 p.m. Friday. Niehaus said a student pep group was leading chants such as "Go South Go" and "Beat North."

During the pep group cheers, “My understanding is that one of the kids was running around in the cheer group waving a Trump 2020 flag, and one of the administrators asked them to put it away because political speech is not the responsibility of that cheerleading group,” said Niehaus. 

He continued, “The student put it away and then the same banner was placed on the fence in front of the stands.”

Niehaus said he did not know if the same student who was waving the flag placed it on the fence.

“Administrators then confiscated the flag because we have a board policy about hanging things on district property,” he said. “The flag was confiscated and students picked it up from the main office on Monday.” 

Asked to address the social media comments accusing administrators of interfering with a student’s freedom of speech, Niehaus said, “Every student has the right to freedom of speech. Every adult also has the right to freedom of speech. We also have the right to confiscate a flag on a fence. It could have been a Hillary Clinton flag for that matter.”

Jon Dean, deputy superintendent of education services added, “We often will have political signs placed on school property and those also are removed, consistent with school policy.”