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Friday, May 07, 2010

It's come to this

Five students at a California high school were told that they couldn't wear T shirts with images of the American flag on them. They had to either wear their shirts inside out or go home. They chose to go home.

So why were these shirts considered so offensive? Because it was Cinco de Mayo and the principal was afraid their shirts would spark fights with the Mexican-American students who were celebrating that day.

Note that wearing the Stars and Stripes is now considered rather like wearing gang paraphernalia that might lead to fights so it should be censored.
The boys told Rodriguez and Principal Nick Boden that turning their shirts inside-out was disrespectful, so their parents decided to take them home.

"I just couldn't believe it," Julie Fagerstrom, Maciel's mother, told the Morgan Hill Times. "I'm an open-minded parent, but it's got to be on both sides. It can't be five kids singled out."

Galli told NBC Bay Area, "They said we could wear it on any other day, but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it's supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it."
It's fine if the Mexican-American students wanted to spend the day wearing images of the Mexican flag, but that shouldn't mean that other students can't express their national pride also. There doesn't seem to be any history of fights having broken out previously due to someone wearing the flag, so the administrators are just assuming that the Latino students will get angry and attack the kids wearing the American flag. Isn't that insulting to the Latino students?

In addition to the natural offensiveness of considering the American flag on the level of gang insignia, the administrators' actions seem pretty clearly to violate the students' First Amendment rights.
Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the students are protected under California Education Code 48950, which prohibits schools from enforcing a rule subjecting a high school student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct, that when engaged outside of campus, is protected by the First Amendment.

If the school could point to previous incidents sparked by students who wore garments with American flags, they could argue that the flag is likely to lead to "substantial disruption," Volokh said.

"If, for example, there had been fights over similar things at past events, if there had been specific threats made," he said. "But if [school officials] just say, 'Well, we think it might be offensive to people,' that's generally speaking not enough."

Volokh said the students and their parents likely have a winning case on their hands if they decide to take the matter to court.

"Oh yes, it's almost open and shut," he said.

Lis Wiehl, a former federal prosecutor and a Fox News legal analyst, said the incident appears to a "blatant" violation of the students' First Amendment right to free speech. She noted that inciting violence is an exception to a First Amendment legal defense, but Wiehl said she saw no indications that the students provoked anyone.
And note the sense of entitlement from this student.
"I think they should apologize 'cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day," Annicia Nunez told KNTV. "We don't deserve to get disrespected like that. We wouldn't do that on Fourth of July."
If the big push by supporters of illegal immigrants is that they be granted a path to citizenship, why assume that Latino students would object to the sight of a flag that so many immigrants are hoping to call their own? And if the sight of someone wearing an image of the American flag is indeed considered an incitement to violence or even a sign of disrespect, then we need to reconsider the debate over citizenship. Apparently, when we celebrate diversity, some students' diversity is more equal than others.

UPDATE: Dafydd Ab Hugh has some suggestions of how the administrators could have turned this whole experience into a valuable learning experience. And isn't that what schools are for?
* Think what a revelation it would have been had Miguel Rodriguez explained to them that, while their heritage may be Mexican, they themselves are American citizens… so the American flag is not insulting or disrespectful to them. (I doubt a single one of the protesting students is actually a Mexican citizen.)
* Imagine if Rodriguez had told them that celebrating a victory by Mexico over France does not require them to attack the United States… which allied with Mexico in that very war.
* Imagine if he had lectured them about showing civility themselves: The five students didn’t tell anyone else not to wear the colors of the Mexican flag; why should Hispanic students demand that their classmates not wear the colors of the American flag — which is, of course, also the flag of the Hispanic students?
Alas, the administrators simply thought of how to use rules to enforce their own idea of civility and passed up this opportunity. Clearly, mutual respect is not an aspect of this school's culture and the administrators model that lack of respect themselves.


Chris said...

Not to mention that Cinqo de Mayo is NOT equivalent to July 4th since it's not a national celebration of Mexico's independence (celebrated on Sept. 16th, if Ms. Nunez were at all that historically [hysterically?] astute). As a celebration of a Mexican milita's victory over the French army it would be closer to celebrating an early American colonial victory over the British.

But, that's not the important thing. The really important thing is -----

"My emotions are all in a dither, so don't even try to calm me down with the facts!"

John A said...


This is an awful, horrible, miserable idea and new-minted Senator Brown should hang his head in shame. And who has been spiking Lieberman's drinks, with what?

Timothy Lee said...

Five more students get a free ride to college courtesy of taxpayers via the school district. These must be AP students as none of the other students seemed bright enough to catch on to the free scholarship money available from an easy lawsuit.

equitus said...

Sounds like very poor judgment - stupidity if you like - on the part of the principal, compounded by the "soft bigotry of low expectations" so prevalent in our education establishment.

Pat Patterson said...

Next year we should celebrate either the 2nd of February for the end of the Mexican-American War or the 21st of April for the Battle of San Jacinto. Hah!

tfhr said...

As an American of Czech heritage, I think we should celebrate "Peace in Our Time" Days on the last two days of September to commemorate the Western tradition of appeasement. We could celebrate giving away our sovereignty without a fight while setting the table for greater dangers ahead.

We could wear clothing with flags from a whole host of countries. There would be no fighting because on paper we could all be happy. We could shake hands, wave bits of paper containing meaningless statements, and congratulate our selves that as long as there's "peace" there's really no difference between an invasion and "immigration".

Beer and dumplings for everyone!

Pat Patterson said...

I always suspected that the name tfhr was originally foreign as there are no vowels. And we're not planning on sharing any either so don't ask.

tfhr said...

We think consonants are aesthetic - can't get enough of them and they make or break you in Scrabble - our national sport (after full contact polka).