Sunday, April 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Court: School can ban US flag shirts for safety

By
From page A5 | February 28, 2014 | 4 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO — Officials at a Northern California high school acted appropriately when they ordered students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn the garments inside out during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the officials’ concerns of racial violence outweighed students’ freedom of expression rights. Administrators feared the American-flag shirts would enflame the passions of Latino students celebrating the Mexican holiday. Live Oak High School, in the San Jose suburb of Morgan Hill, had a history of problems between white and Latino students on that day.

The unanimous three-judge panel said past problems gave school officials sufficient and justifiable reasons for their actions. The court said schools have wide latitude in curbing certain civil rights to ensure campus safety.

“Our role is not to second-guess the decision to have a Cinco de Mayo celebration or the precautions put in place to avoid violence,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel. The past events “made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real,” she wrote.

The case garnered national attention as many expressed outrage that students were barred from wearing patriotic clothing. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based American Freedom Law Center, a politically conservative legal aid foundation, and other similar organizations took up the students’ case and sued the high school and the school district.

William Becker, one of the lawyers representing the students, said he plans to ask a special 11-judge panel of the appeals court to rehear the case. Becker said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if he loses again.

“The 9th Circuit upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating a holiday of another country over U.S. student proudly supporting this country,” Becker said.

Cinco de Mayo marks the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when Mexican troops defeated a French army of Napoleon III, then considered the mightiest military in the world. It is considered a bigger holiday in the U.S., celebrating Mexican heritage with parades and revelry in many major cities.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 4 comments

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  • John AndersonFebruary 28, 2014 - 8:40 am

    Why is a war unrelated to America even celebrated here?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • patrickFebruary 28, 2014 - 3:15 pm

    they don't celebrate 5th of may south of the border

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • just a thoughtFebruary 28, 2014 - 9:44 am

    While i mean no disrespect to anyone of Mexican heritage this outrages me. If it is the safety of the students the school is concerned with there are likely other issues going on at that school unrelated to the flag shirts. Students of public schools in this country should never be kept from wearing, displaying, saluting, or showing pride in our Stars and Stripes. I am far from the most patriotic guy on the block, but this ruling is as anti-American as you can get. That flag stands for all who have died for the right of people to even have the freedom to honor or celebrate another countries war victories.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodFebruary 28, 2014 - 4:40 pm

    This case is actually fairly simple, legally. There is a long history of the courts giving public school administrators broad discretion to ensure the safety of their campuses. That includes what outside of school might be a violation of freedom of expression. Does anyone want to make school administrators' jobs harder?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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