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American flag shirts in school: Ban on wearing patriotic shirts on Cinco de Mayo

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In a case that involves patriotic rights and student safety, a ruling to ban high school kids wearing American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo is causing some major contention in California. This week, the state’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made an official ruling, noting that it was acceptable for officials at the San Jose High School from allowing students to wear T-shirts that bore the American flag on Cinco de Mayo due to potential violence troubles. Yahoo! News reports this Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, that the ban was implemented in an attempt to reduce racial tensions and gang hostilities during the first week of May.

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated on May 5th to honor the decisive Battle of Puebla in 1862, honoring Mexican culture, pride, and history. A new ruling involving this holiday and a prohibition of students wearing American flag shirts on that day has hit the public spotlight this week. It seems the keynote decision comes from a controversial occurrence back in 2010, when a number of students from a similar high school with a past of gang violence was informed by administrators to either turn their T-shirts bearing the patriotic flag inside out or go home. In the process, the court referred to at least two incidents in which students had been threatened for wearing the flag on Cinco de Mayo in apparent disrespect to the Mexican holiday.

Back in 2009, continues the report, several Mexican students were allegedly overheard that they would “f**k up the kids” who were in the middle of chanting repeatedly, “USA, USA!” near a flag that had been hung from a school campus tree. Other students were said to be told the following year that they would be beat up by gang members if they wore the American flag on their shirts during the Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

However, the controversy surrounding this issue has come to a head this 2014 due to the fact that school officials failed to ban any shirts that held allusions to the flags from other countries, only the U.S. nation (that includes the flag from Mexico). Since the ban, parents are now suing the school district, saying that their teens are having their First Amendment rights violated in not being able to wear the American flag shirts.

The court is pointing out that the school has a legal right to limit the free speech of high school students if that speech can lead to student safety concerns or potential violence. Notes the school dress code at one local high school:

"The school has the right to request that any student dressing inappropriately for school will change into other clothes, be sent home to change, and/or be subject to disciplinary action." Writing for the panel of three judges, 9th Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown stated, "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, [the events] made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real."

Nonetheless, a number of parents are still upset over this inability to wear American flag shirts at school, and would be allegedly willing to take the matter all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is the United States of America," said Kendall Jones, whose son was a student banned from wearing a shirt that depicted the American flag. "The idea that it's offensive to wear patriotic clothing … regardless of what day it is, is unconscionable to me."

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