MILLBURN, NJ — Two weeks ago, Millburn High School Principal, Dr. William Miron, sent an email to district parents apologizing for the publication of a photo showing the thin blue line flag in the 2020 yearbook.
The photo was taken on a community outreach day in October to honor recreation teams and the D.A.R.E. program.
In his email, Dr. Miron described the photo as “understandably appalling,” going on to say that “I wish we had realized in October any of the negative associations with the picture. We should have known. I personally can only apologize that I did not… We must use this as an opportunity to recommit to social justice and racial equality.”
Many parents sent in responses to Dr. Miron’s email, and one parent, Brian Nashel, was interviewed Friday night on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” about his response.
Nashel said, “As a parent, a Millburn resident, and an American, I found [Miron's] letter to be not only condescending and offensive, but also spurious, misguided and ironically intolerant of anyone holding views which do not conform to the currently prescribed and carefully constructed language of wokeness.”
Since the news story aired, many, both in the Millburn community and beyond have shared their views, ranging from death threats to calls of support. Superintendent Dr. Christine Burton weighed in during Monday night’s Board of Education Meeting.
Dr. Burton said, “we all know that in today’s world, I call it the twin pandemics, that there is a need to carefully weigh both our words and our actions, especially in this time. In this era of change, we have to recognize that mores and norms are changing and that there is always not always alignment on the meaning of certain symbols. What is certain is this: Millburn stands in support of our students equally.
“Additionally, we are proud of our relationship with first responders who heroically serve our community with pride… We respect and stand by the police. Our commitment to equality and social justice is a commitment that has long been expressed by this community. It continues and deepens. The Board has demonstrated this commitment through our district goal over the past two years. As you know, we will be doing even more work with equity and social justice partners.
“…We all have learned from this moment in time and most important, we continue to learn. This upcoming school year will be one of deep listening, deep engagement, and adjustment to change.”
During the second Public Comments portion of the evening, parents and Millburn alumnae also weighed in.
Former Board of Education President Berilyn Schwab said, “I commend him [Dr. Miron] for his wonderful tenure and his service to Millburn,” continuing with “we should take his lead and go further and further in acknowledging the need for diversity in our school system that is sometimes lacking.”
Laura Palomaki also shared her support for Dr. Miron, saying “it’s really polarizing to focus on the flag.” She also said, “anyone who knows Dr. Miron knows how much he cares for his students.”
Dan Erikstein believed that Dr. Miron showed “leadership.” He explained that “the time for idle complicity has long ended” and he hoped that the Board will “end up on the right side of history.”
Emily Jaffe described Dr. Miron as “beloved” and said, “he should be celebrated.” She continued that “we can support Dr. Miron and still support our school board and administration.”
Daniel Panin said that hundreds of students are “misguided by the meaning of the blue line flag,” and he knows from personal experience, coming from a family of law enforcement. He described Dr. Miron’s comments as “hurtful.”
Gill Wallen and Gail Shapiro, both Millburn Alumnae, said that the treatment of Dr. Miron is “not just nor right.” In terms of further action, they said Dr. Miron should be “reprimanded, yes, but not fired.”
Many Board members, during their comment period, took the chance to share their own views, speaking not from their official positions, but as members of the Millburn community.
Oyin Owolabi said, “just because someone is for black lives matter does not mean that they are anti-police. And just because someone is pro-police and fly the thin blue line, we shouldn’t presume them to be racist.
“We all need to strive more to listen to one another and be slow to condemn and believe the worst about ourselves.
“The false narrative out there is that black people do not want police presence in their towns and that they support the defunding or dismantling of the police. This could not be further from the truth. A recent Gallup poll showed that over 80% of black Americans support the police. Black people oppose police brutality and unfair treatment by some bad eggs in the police force. They want to be given the same benefit of doubt as whites are given.”
Board Vice President Sonali Ganti said that Dr. Miron “is the pillar of this community in many ways.” She also said, “I know how much he adores every student in that building.”
She referred to the current situations as a “teaching moment” and went on to say, “I hope we can heal and more forward.”
Caroline Updyke reminded everyone of some values, including “caring for one another, being inclusive, looking out for the weaker amongst us.”
Johnathan Green described his reaction to the yearbook photo as “a product of my life experiences.” He said that “students uniformly support Dr. Miron” and commended students for the “intelligence discourse” he has seen in the outpouring of emails the Board has received from them.
Board President Alex Zaltsman said, “I’m very grateful for the people who have reached out to use and who have spoken up in support for him [Dr. Miron].” He continued, “we should not go to the national media to solve our problems. That solves nothing. We should work together.”