Court: U.S. flag is unsafe at U.S. school

Flag T-shirts banned on Cinco de Mayo in Morgan Hill

Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matthew Dariano and Dominic Maciel and (not shown) Clayton Howard were asked to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out or go home when they wore them to Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill on Cinco de Mayo. (Julie Fagerstrom)

It’s not safe to display the American flag at an American high school, writes Eugene Volokh in his Washington Post blog. The Ninth Circuit Court upheld a California high school’s decision to forbid students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo because Mexican-American students had threatened violence the year before.

Under the Supreme Court’s Tinker decision, student speech may be restricted if “school authorities [can reasonably] forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” stemming from the speech. The earlier threats of racial violence justified the flag ban, the court ruled.

This is a classic “heckler’s veto” — thugs threatening to attack the speaker, and government officials suppressing the speech to prevent such violence. “Heckler’s vetoes” are generally not allowed under First Amendment law; the government should generally protect the speaker and threaten to arrest the thugs, not suppress the speaker’s speech. But under Tinker‘s “forecast substantial disruption” test, such a heckler’s veto is indeed allowed.

“Schools have special responsibilities to educate their students and to protect them both against violence and against disruption of their educations,” writes Volokh, a UCLA law professor. But what a sad situation.

Somehow, we’ve reached the point that students can’t safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it — and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students’ speech). Something is badly wrong, whether such an incident happens on May 5 or any other day.

Live Oak High School students have learned a simple lesson, Volokh concludes. “If you dislike speech and want it suppressed, then you can get what you want by threatening violence against the speakers.” Thuggery pays.

School rejects ‘Merica Day’

A group of residents hold American flags in front of Fort Collins High School in protest of the school's ban on 'Merica Day Tuesday morning Feb. 4, 2014. The school reached a compromise with students and will hold an event on Monday called, "My Country Monday."

Residents protest Fort Collins High School’s ban on “Merica Monday.”

Celebrating America during spirit week might offend immigrants, said Fort Collins High administrators. They rejected students’ request for “Merica Monday,” reports The Coloradoan.

“It’s kind of absurd that we can’t celebrate the country we’re in — whether you’re from it or just visiting,” said Ellie Goodspeed, a senior and treasurer of the school’s student council.

“Building administrators met with the students to discuss the inconsistency of this day versus the other planned theme days, including PJ day and Twin day,” said Poudre School District spokeswoman Danielle Clark in a statement.

Students proposed “My Country Monday” as a compromise. Administrators rejected that idea too, said Goodspeed, but changed their mind on Monday.

Students celebrate the Mexican culture holiday Cinco de Mayo, senior Stephanie Livingston told the Coloradoan.

Student told not to fly U.S. flag

On the eve of Veteran’s Day, a California eighth-grader was told not to fly the U.S. flag on his bicycle because Mexican-American students objected.  It was for his own safety, said Denair Superintendent Edward Parraz.

“(The) First Amendment is important,” Parraz said. “We want the kids to respect it, understand it, and with that comes a responsibility.”

Parraz said racial tensions boiled over at the school this year around the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

“Our Hispanic, you know, kids will, you know, bring their Mexican flags and they’ll display it, and then of course the kids would do the American flag situation, and it does cause kind of a racial tension which we don’t really want,” Parraz said. “We want them to appreciate the cultures.”

Cody Alicea, 13, has been riding to school with the flag since the start of the school year. He folds it — correctly — and puts it in his backpack when he gets to campus.

Once the story got to TV, the superintendent said Cody can fly the flag.

Flag flap follow-up

After five Live Oak High students were sent home for wearing U.S. flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo, some Live Oak High students wore white and purple to school as a sign of unity.  Others marched to Morgan Hill’s City Hall to demand respect for Mexican traditions. The student protesters “discussed a possible community-wide celebration of diversity and asked for ideas about how to bring the community together, said the city manager.

I think the best way to bring the community together is to avoid a “celebration of diversity” and focus on what students have in common.

Update: Live Oak High hides a “racist secret,” writes Bob Owens on Pajamas Media. The school has a MECHA club for Mexican-American students with some separationist rhetoric about rclaiming Aztlan on its web site. There are lots of MECHA clubs at California high schools and colleges and I don’t see them as a sinister force.  They give kids who might otherwise feel like outsiders a sense of belonging. Let me ask California teachers: Does MECHA push kids to resist assimilation? Is it good, bad, or neutral?

U.S. flag ban on Cinco de Mayo

Five students who wore American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo were sent home from a California high school, reports the GilroyDispatch. Live Oak High School in middle-class Morgan Hill is 43 percent non-Hispanic white and 40 percent Hispanic.

“They said we were starting a fight, we were fuel to the fire,” said sophomore Matt Dariano.

The boys refused to turn their T-shirts inside-out, saying it was disrespectful to the flag.

More than 100 students were spotted wearing red, white and green as they were leaving school. Some had the Mexican flag painted on their faces or on their arms.

. . . One Mexican-American student, freshman Laura Ponce, had a Mexican flag painted on her face and chest, peaking out of her low-cut shirt. She did it because, “it’s our day, the only day we can show our spirit.” A school administrator took away the Mexican flag she was carrying as she was waiting to go home. Ponce said: “not cool.”

Some students yelled “Mexico sucks,” reports the Dispatch. Mexican-American students yelled insults back  in Spanish.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the school hosted folklorico dancers, who waved Mexican flags and played Mexican music. Apparently, it didn’t ease the tension.

Via Instapundit.

California gives students broad free speech rights, which the school apparently violated, writes Eugene Volokh.