Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Court Upholds School’s Restriction on U.S. Flag Shirts

High school administrators in Morgan Hill, California, were concerned about ethnic tensions erupting into violence when they asked white students wearing U.S. flag shirts to turn them inside out on Cinco de Mayo in 2010.

Tensions had broken out between white students and students of Mexican descent a year earlier as well. On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with administrators, rather than the students who claimed their rights to freedom of expression were violated.

Administrators said they worried that violence would take place on the Mexican holiday between the white students wearing the U.S. flag shirts and their classmates of Mexican heritage. In the judges’ eyes, the threat of violence outweighed freedom of expression.

Judge Margaret McKeown wrote that a past history of tensions between the groups “made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real.”

The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that the white students charged discrimination because some Hispanic students were wearing Mexico flag colors. 

“If they were so concerned about violence, why didn’t they cancel the celebration?” attorney Robert Muise asked.