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School bans American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo

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(CNN) -- A California school that stopped students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo didn't violate their constitutional rights, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The school's approach, according to the appeals court, kept students safe in a climate of racial tension.

"The controversy and tension remained," a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in their opinion, "but the school's actions presciently avoided an altercation."

School officials were worried about violence and disruption of school activities "and their response was tailored to the circumstance," the opinion said.

American Flag shirtThe case dates back to May 5, 2010, when the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, asked a group of students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn their shirts inside out or take them off.

The students at the Northern California school refused, according to the appeals court's summary of the case, and later brought a civil rights suit against the school and two administrators, arguing that their rights to freedom of expression, equal protection and due process had been violated.

Judges said the civil rights case forced them to weigh the difficult question of what takes precedence: students' free speech rights or school safety concerns?

According to court documents, the incident occurred amid "ongoing racial tension and gang violence within the school, and after a near-violent altercation had erupted during the prior Cinco de Mayo over the display of an American flag."

The previous year, court documents said, a group of students carrying a Mexican flag had clashed with students who hung an American flag from a tree and chanted "USA" on Cinco de Mayo, a holiday marking a famous Mexican military battle that is often celebrated in the United States.

In 2010, the appeals court said, "threats issued in the aftermath of the incident were so real that the parents of the students involved in the suit kept them home from school two days later."

CNN first learned of the court's ruling on Twitter.

™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


  • jenny

    Seems to me that the fools who hung the American flag up and chanted “USA” are the ones who instigated this whole thing. They knew it was Cinco De Mayo and just had to stir something up. Personally, i would have tuned them out bc they were just being idiots. The Mexican folks didn’t need to let that incident become an incident to begin with. They were simply being baited by the dumb American kids that day, and they took the bait. If more people would learn to ignore things that should be ignored, and pay attention to real issues, things like this would be non-issues. Those Mexican folk were harming no one in celebrating their Independence Day. The American arrogance is the problem here. And now, to prevent a riot from Mexican folks, we have to hide our flag on Cinco De Mayo?? I don’t think so. Why should we have to fear showing our flag bc of their holiday? I have no problem with them celebrating it, but i see no reason to have to hide it. What’s next, Bastille Day? And then other holidays other countries celebrate? Get a grip, people. By cowtowing to this fear-mongering created by that scrap three years ago, we now have to put aside who we are so they can have their holiday. No! That mentality is doing nothing but enabling the hate and allowing it to continue.

    • Maria-Elinda Martinez

      What’s this?? We Americans cannot show our national colors in our own country because some people feel “offended”?? We have that inalienable right, particularly when in public places, for the first amendment says so. And how can you call “arrogance” showing our national colors; you very well know that such act is just a popular, colloquial expression of patriotism, much the same as wearing an American-flag button on the lapel, or taking one’s right hand palm to the left chest when the national anthem is played. Is that arrogance?

      Arrogance bordering utter idiocy is you calling those kids’ patriotism “arrogance”, particularly when it comes from a crass ignoramus like you that doesn’t know that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence-day, which is on September 16. May 5 is the anniversary of the day a small detachment of French Emperor Napoleon III invading troops surrounding the city of Puebla abandoned the siege for more juicy targets. Now, Puebla was not being defended, by ragged peasants, as contended falsely by Chicano irredentists who want to “return” California and about five or six other states to Mexico, but by regular Mexican Army troops commanded by General Ignacio Saragoza. Chicano irredentists have kept, year after year, lying to clueless Americans making them believe 1- that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s independence-day, 2- that Puebla was being defended by ragged peasants wielding machetes and lances, and 3- that they defeated the war-seasoned French troops.

      By the way, what in reality happened at Puebla on May 5, 1862 was just that the French detachment lifted the siege to join the rest of the invading army in the pursuit of more valuable targets. After winning decisive real battles nearby, the French came back in full force a year later –on May 17, 1863– to easily overrun and seize Puebla in just a few hours of fighting. Then, just less than a month later, on June 7, 1863, the French –with the help of Mexican monarchist troops– took the capital, Mexico City itself. (read the entire story at

      Thereafter, almost everything went downhill for the Mexican patriots…until April 10, 1865, the very day after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his defeated, badly beaten army to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. It was then when, just four days before being murdered, none else than Abraham Lincoln –victorious over the South, with a well-seasoned and powerful 900,000 strong Union army, irked at France’s support for Dixie and France’s outrageous attempts to pool several European countries to intervene militarily in the Civil War, and invoking the Monroe Doctrine– sent Napoleon III a stern ultimatum to pull his troops out of Mexico.

      In a message that Secretary of State William Henry Seward conveyed to Napoleon through the American Consul in Paris, Abe threatened Napoleon with sending, firstly, an expeditionary force to flush out the French troops from Mexico, and, secondly, sending the U.S. Navy, to sink France’s Navy ships anchored on the Mexican Atlantic port of Veracruz.

      Along with, and to give weight to, his warning, Abe also ordered the march of 50,000 troops under the command of the bellicose General Philip H. Sheridan to the banks of the River Grand near Laredo, Texas, and issued orders preparing the Navy to sail south to Veracruz.

      Napoleon correctly understood that Lincoln, and his successor Andrew Jackon, meant business; Napoleon pulled all his troops between June 15 and December 18, 1866.

      as a token of his compliance with Abe’s ultimatum, Napoleon readily heeded by immediately pulling some small forces throughout the end of 1865. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, kept the pressure on Napoleon.

      Goaded even more convincingly by President Andrew Johnson and Secretary Seward in a new stern written message issued on February 12 of 1866 demanding the complete withdrawal of all French forces, Napoleon evacuated the bulk of his troops out of Mexico between June 15 and December 18, 1866. He left behind just a rogue force of about 300 French soldiers and foreign mercenaries as palace guards for phony emperor Maximilian.

      Those Chicano kids should rather be taught to celebrate the 4th of July, for America’s independence would allow on day Lincoln become president, for it was him who made the French abandon Mexico. Those kids should be taught also to celebrate April 10, to commemorate the day Lincoln ordered Napoleon III to beat it.

      I lived in Mexico for two years and witnessed that May 5 passes almost unnoticed. What Mexicans celebrate big time is September 16, independence-day, and June 17, the anniversary of the execution of Maximilian, the stooge that Napoleon III sat as Emperor of Mexico…on the invitation from Mexican monarchists. A couple of Mexican generals that commanded Mexican monarchist forces subordinated to Maximilian were executed also that day.

  • leilani

    looks like we are out numbered. we are us americans and our flag is the united states of america and we want to keep it that way.What is wrong with people these days.God is comeing back and he doesn’t like what is going on.

  • llayne68

    American arrogance?!? Jenny at best you are misinformed. More likely your sleeping liberal idiot.

    The kids holding up an American flag in a school on American soul were wrong? In what warped sense is this true?

    Do we honor the Russian Independence Day? The Japanese? The Iraqi? Or any other country?

    Is cinco de mayo an American holiday?

    I have no problem with an American of Mexican descent wearing a shirt with his ancestry displayed, but I have a real problem with illegals in our schools, taking our jobs then seeing the rights of American kids trampled by the ninth court of liberalism.

    This is America. This isn’t Mexico. If Mexican citizens were so proud of their country, they’d still be there. They came came here for better opportunity, for better healthcare etc. Don’t try to sell me on the notion of Mexican patriotism here. If they love their country, they should stay there and make it better.

    Unfortunately Washington agrees. They want everyone here to be poor workers for the state controlled by the police state as well.

    Liberals are idiots. Period

  • llayne68

    Sorry Jenny, I stopped after reading only half of your post. I didn’t see the sarcasm, until I had posted the previous. So please accept my humble apology, and know that I agree with you. I stand by every word in my post acre or the word Jenny!

  • Galvanize W. Kirk

    Poor Faculty Leadership and no student discipline is to blame for the Gang activity at the troubled school. Scapegoating the American Flag as an image of negative incitement and not as a common unity is almost Treacherous.
    Also, keep in mind Cinco De Mayo was a war against European Imperialism and the French also intended to weaken the US Union and force the Hand of Lincoln and Texas by conquering Mexico.
    A HS History Teachers ought to know this.
    I recommend whoever decided this ought to volunteer their teaching services in China, Burma, or Venezuela and experience how that decision would fly over there .

  • Paula Kennedy

    I will fly and wear my American Flag and if someone tries to stop me…it’s on. This is my Country and I am very proud of it, my flag, and the many people in my family who fought for the rights of this Country. You want to celebrate your Countries holiday, no problem but don’t expect me to hide that I am an American and proud of it!!!!

  • John

    Are you kidding me!!!!!! They came to America and expect everything ,how is it right that we as Americans have to adjust for them not speaking English not being able to fly our flag!! Not saying the pledge any more and get free health care , it would not be that way of I went there

  • thexzman

    It is ridiculous that they would do this. How dare our government ban a flag that millions have died and continue to die for. If we continue to lose the values behind our flag then we will continue to lose our values as a country. What is a country without values?

  • Angie

    Congratulations California. If they gave an Oscar for best supporting state in the liberal hopes for a new world order-you win. Absolutely disgusting that anyone would even entertain the thought of banning any form or display of the American flag. In America. Our country. Where we live. Legally. No, I will not learn to speak Spanish. No, you do not (legally) have rights in this country just because you made it across the border. No, I do not appreciate having my tax dollars used for the benefit of people who feel a sense of entitlement. And yes, I will proudly display our flag whenever and wherever I want.

  • Seth

    Not mentioned is that, according to ACLJ filings, students were allowed to continue flying the Mexican flag.

  • Carol Coons

    I think this kerfuffle makes a perfect argument for the wear of the uniform in school. In 20 years of wearing a uniform, I was never a pickle, tree or a smurf.

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