Red, white and blue: Color me unimpressed with high school patriots

This is one of those stories that turns into a cause celebre and riles up lots of folks. But at the heart of the issue — five California high school students were kicked off their campus Wednesday for wearing t-shirts and bandannas emblazoned with American flags on Cinco de Mayo — is simple courtesy toward others.

Yes, the students at a San Jose high school are entitled to wear patriotic garb, but did they only do so on this specific day to poke at their Mexican-American classmates? And was that intent clear to the school officials?

I would like to know if the boys wore the t-shirts and bandannas any other day of the school year.

Sorry, if my kids donned the country’s colors only as a dig at their foreign-born classmates, it would not be an action that I would applaud or defend.

I know that this is going to set off folks who believe that these kids are true patriots defending American values and culture, but there is a difference between patriotism as principle and patriotism as a rebuke or put-down of others.

According to the AJC:

One of the boys, Daniel Galli, told the station that he and four friends were sitting at a table eating brunch when a vice principal told two of them to remove American flag bandannas from around their heads, and the other three to turn their American flag t-shirts inside out. They refused to do so and were sent to the office.

“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 today,” Galli told KNTV. The school has a large number of Mexican-American students, the NBC affiliate reported.

According to another of the boys, school administrators told them that if they went back to class wearing the shirts, they would be suspended for defiance. The boys went home to avoid suspension.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Julie Fagerstrom, one of the boys’ mother, said. “All they were doing was displaying their patriotic nature. They’re expressing their individuality.”

The TV station reported Thursday that the five boys and their parents met with officials from the Morgan Hill Unified School District Wednesday night, and the district officials released a statement saying they do not agree with the way school administrators handled the incident.

The boys were told they could return to school on Thursday, wearing the red, white and blue.

159 comments Add your comment

Attentive Parent

May 6th, 2010
6:22 pm

Maureen-

One of the 5 boys was Hispanic himself.

This is not the essence of the story I read.

RobertNAtl

May 6th, 2010
6:29 pm

I have to disagree with you here. The crux of the matter is not the intent or mindset of the youngsters, but the actions of the school administrators in forbidding them the right to express themselves (in a non-obscene manner). Would you have been so critical of them if they had, instead, worn an anti-war T-shirt on the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as a “dig” against those who favored the invasion? The school administrators should have left them alone — as the school district itself later implicitly acknowledged.

Maureen Downey

May 6th, 2010
6:29 pm

Attentive Parent, I have now read two other accounts and I still think these kids were out to make a point. I am not sure the school had any grounds to send them home, but nor do I think these kids should be celebrated. I believe in standing up for principles, but not sure what the principle was here.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

May 6th, 2010
6:32 pm

RobertN, I am not defending the school’s drastic action. My point is that I am not celebrating these kids, either. And I would not as a parent go to the mat on this situation.
Maureen

Attentive Parent

May 6th, 2010
6:37 pm

But under California law they were entitled to do this apart from federal First Amendment issues.

http://volokh.com/2010/05/06/california-high-school-sends-kids-home-for-wearing-american-flag-on-cinco-de-mayo/ is a legal analysis.

So do you believe wearing T-shirts with the American flag to a diverse US high school on Cinco de Mayo rises to the level of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre?

School students have less expansive rights under the Bill of Rights from free speech is always about the right of a minority to engage in provocative speech or behavior.

Is an orderly society more important than free speech?

Attentive Parent

May 6th, 2010
6:48 pm

Speaking of the parents, here’s a link that includes an interview with them.

http://hotair.com/archives/2010/05/06/video-cinco-de-mayo-not-the-day-for-patriotism/

I wouldn’t “celebrate” what they did and we adults recognize it may not be wise.

They seem though to have had a legal right to be foolish in their attire in a given situation and isn’t that how ultimately we learn?

If they were worried about violence being provoked by the T shirts, doesn’t that suggest an inappropriate sense of entitlement from some of the other students?

Joshua

May 6th, 2010
7:03 pm

I completely disagree with your viewpoint on this. I would not only support my children, but would be demanding an apology from the entire school board. Whether or not they chose to wear the American flag on Cinco De Mayo to cause trouble or to only be patriotic is irrelevant. I would say in these times the more of us that stand up for our country the better. I think every year on Cinco De Mayo, we should all wear the American flag as a direct statement to these people who have this sense of entitlement. The fact that these people would invoke violence because they weren’t being ‘respected in AMERICA on a day that is hardly even celebrated in Mexico absolutely angers me. If the same scenario were reversed and 5 Mexican kids were sent home for wearing the Mexican flag on July 4th, there would be riots. It’s time we take our country back, we do not have to bow in our own nation. It’s not about race, it’s about our country and I for one am sick of this catering and apologizing…

tncekm

May 6th, 2010
7:06 pm

This is totally ridiculous. OF COURSE the kids were making a point, a very good point. It’s outright offensive for people to be celebrating the allegiance to a foreign country while simultaneously disrespecting the country that has provided a quality of life for them that they couldn’t have attained in their “country of origin” (I say that, yet I guarantee many of these morons toting Mexican flags have never lived in Mexico.)

All you fools who would defend the actions of people who have no allegiance to our great country and punish those who do, all in the name of the ridiculous and destructive ‘political correctness’, are only hastening the demise of the last great civilization.

John

May 6th, 2010
7:15 pm

I commute and work in Mexico regularly. The Mexican people I meet laugh at the fact the the USA has a Cinco de Mayo day. It is NOT an important holiday for them or too them. It is NOT celebrated south of the border any more than Quatro de Abril.

bill

May 6th, 2010
7:20 pm

So Maureen Downey, answer this: If this same situation had occurred on Saint Patrick’s Day, would you say that these same kids would have been wrong to wear American flag clothing? Would that have been disrespectful to all the students of Irish ancestry, and if so, would the students with flags deserve to have been sent home or suspended?

Joey

May 6th, 2010
7:24 pm

Of course the kids were making out to make a point. A very important point that an American school has not respect for America.

Joey

May 6th, 2010
7:25 pm

CORRECTION:

Of course the kids were out to make a point. A very important point that an American school has not respect for America.

Maureen Downey

May 6th, 2010
7:28 pm

Since St. Patrick’s Day is as much an American holiday as it is Irish now, I am not sure the comparison is valid. Actually, raised Catholic, we treated it as a religious holiday when I was a kid. I believe St. Patrick’s day began as a Catholic holiday.
Maureen

Atlanta mom

May 6th, 2010
7:33 pm

This should be a nonissue. The students were wearing clothing acceptable under the school dress code. This is why young people have so little respect for school authority.

GAE? Backbone?!

May 6th, 2010
7:35 pm

Did GAE actually show some backbone today?

Is PAGE as weak and sniveling when it comes to advocating for Georgia’s teachers?

Yet Georgia teachers continue to give their money to PAGE, even as they are being laid off.

Why not just take your shoe off and drop a brick on your foot? Same abuse, but at least you don’t have to pay the membership dues.

fred

May 6th, 2010
7:42 pm

Of course the kids were trying to make a point. What that point was I don’t know and I don’t care. As one of my Law professors once said, the first amendment to the constitution is not there to protect “people” magazine, it is there to protect the rights of magazines that people find offensive. Kids, just like everybody else have the right to be rude to people and act as crass as they like. being offensive is not a crime and as long as they were dressed in clothes that fit in under the school dress code they are in the right on this one.

Gwinnett Parent

May 6th, 2010
7:43 pm

I am tired of people saying that 5 de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. This includes my daughter’s teacher included. Unfortunately, I did not realize that her teacher was the one that educated her on the subject when I said “Who was the moron that said that”. Of course my daughter responded with “My teacher’s not a moron.” Insert foot. Anyway, I spent several years doing business in Mexico. Folks, 5 de Mayo is Puebla Batalla Day. It is not Mexican Independence Day. El 5 de Mayo is just an excuse for Americans to load up on Mexican drinks and food, nada mas. The only Mexicans that celebrate this holiday are those selling cerveza, margaritas, and Mexican food. I am disappointed with the lack of education and large amount of ignorance these administrators displayed. Perhaps they should have studied up on the subject before punishing these students. If we want to honor Puebla Batalla Day, let’s start by educating those educating our children by letting them know it’s just a ploy to sell mas cerveza, not Mexican Independence Day. Please do our youth a favor and google it before you have a lecture on it.

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Status quo?

May 6th, 2010
7:56 pm

It is a sad day in America – students used to be able to protest any idea they wanted, and as long as they did so in a law abiding manner.

Bill

May 6th, 2010
8:06 pm

Try to tell a brother sister or parent of a Soldier that has died for this country and your freedom to not wear an American Flag shirt or Bandana on any day and see what happens. Clearly a double standard going on here, I’m a White man and it would be crazy for me to go to Mexico and sport an American Flag on the 4th of July or any other day or even just go there. I love everyone equally and am not racist at all, just pointing out the obvious. I feel that anyone that has a problem with American flag is probably a racist or simply just stupid. If you’re so proud of your heritage and think it’s so great then why are you in America? I think every kid in that school should praise those kids for wearing and showing pride in America and freedom of expression. Those that don’t agree with this needs to realize where there sleeping and eating and flapping there gums and getting to do whatever and say whatever they want, OH YAH THAT WOULD BE AMERICA!
Happy Holidays fellow AMERICANS!

dbow

May 6th, 2010
8:12 pm

Did it escape anyone’s attention that the assistant principal is Hispanic? Of course not. Maureen, so what if they were making a point, this is what you do all day long isn’t it? They have a first amendment right to wear those shirts and I don’t buy the argument that the shirts might have caused a disturbance. The misguided admins did more harm then those boys. I also don’t buy the argument made by the misguided teenager in the story that said cinco de mayo is the only day they can show their national pride. Mexicans are always claiming their rights and what not even if there illegal.

School garb

May 6th, 2010
8:12 pm

Is it true that 5 PAGE executives went to the General Assembly last week wearing white surrender bandannas and T-Shirts that said Kick Me?

really

May 6th, 2010
8:18 pm

i bet if you ask students from Mexico what May the 5th means most will say Mexican Independence; most don’t even know their own history. In America, we just use it for another reason to drink. Every month America has to have a drinking celebration and hell as if we didnt have enough we borrow one from another country.

catlady

May 6th, 2010
8:29 pm

Dontcha love how the mama jumps to her son’s defense, claiming his “rights” are violated? This is the kind of crap schools put up with each day. Sonny gets in trouble? You are violating his rights. Sally hurts someone? The other kid hurt her first. Ad nauseum.

BenF

May 6th, 2010
8:36 pm

Morons. Cinco de Mayo isn’t even a real Mexican holiday. No one in Mexico even celebrates it.

and another thing

May 6th, 2010
8:37 pm

If mexico is so great, why do illegal immgrants come here? I have seen students from mexico berate America, and just want to tell them if you dont like it here go back. If they are here and want to partake in our great country, become a citizen, great more power to them. But for those who come here and act with contempt for our nation: LEAVE.

Get Educated

May 6th, 2010
8:38 pm

The vice principal needs to get educated. Mexican Independence Day is September 16, not May 5. I do not think that the boys did anything wrong. I am tired of political correctness. We have lost sight of why America was formed and what our Founding Fathers fought for.

Get Educated

May 6th, 2010
8:47 pm

Catlady, how did the child get into trouble? If he was following the dress code, than nothing should have been said. The VP made a big deal out of an non-issue. These are why parents fight and defend their children. Get upset and give the kids discipline when it’s really important and effects the learning taking place in the school.

As a teacher, I usually agree with your thinking, but here there is no issue and a time when parents should defend their children for having their rights violated.

BRUCE

May 6th, 2010
8:55 pm

Way to go Maureen!! Showing your bigoted side in this story against the American Flag worn law abiding people. Are all liberals so stupid that they think others can’t see their bias?

These are the same people who are livid if some one protested flag being burned because it infringed on a person right to free speech!!!

But we don’t want to hurt any of the Mexican community feelings do we so now that’s not important in this case. Your a real piece of art aren’t u Maureen baby..

Gabriel

May 6th, 2010
8:55 pm

Maureen, your comments BLEED the putrid stench of extremist leftist liberal so much so that I am almost gagging on the stench. Obviously you are as ignorant as is anyone who would dare insinuate, for whatever reason, that the Cinco de Mayo “holiday” in any way supersedes the right of an AMERICAN on AMERICAN soil, or anywhere in the darned entire world for that matter, to wear the national colors. This is not Mexico, need I remind you. The holiday of Cinco De Mayo, The 5th Of May, commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. It is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with a significant Mexican population. It is not, as many people think, Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually September 16.

You politically correct liberals make me see red!!! A good Tar & Feathering might do you a bit of good…at least knock some sense into your poor befuddled little brain!

high school teacher

May 6th, 2010
9:14 pm

I don’t think the boys should have been in trouble, but I do have to laugh at this line from the mother: “All they were doing was displaying their patriotic nature. They’re expressing their individuality.” Really? He’s wearing a shirt that everyone pledges to, and that shows his individuality? Too funny!

Back to the issue at hand, I think that the boys got exactly what they wanted, which was attention.

B. Killebrew

May 6th, 2010
9:16 pm

curt Buskuhl

May 6th, 2010
9:18 pm

Maureen, you have this all wrong, all wrong. How do you know their intent? How does the school? The point is, it doesnt even matter because the school violated their free speech rights. By allowing one group to wear what they want but not another is wrong. This is the United States, not mexico so i could care less about the kids celebrating cinco de mayo.

Fenstermacher

May 6th, 2010
9:25 pm

They were making a point and I applaud them for it! They did nothing wrong. By exposing your PC opinion, you make yourself look like a complete fool.

Georgia Teacher

May 6th, 2010
9:29 pm

Let us all remember one thing: students in a public high school are not protected under the First Amendment (see Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD).

Cinco de Mayo is the “Mexican St. Patrick’s Day.” It is more about drinking than actually celebrating a holiday, or so says one of my students who was born in Mexico, where it is not celebrated.

Honestly, this is a non-issue. Let’s move on to more important matters.

Daily Pundit » Rage

May 6th, 2010
9:30 pm

[...] Red, white and blue: Color me unimpressed with high school patriots | Get Schooled This is one of those stories that turns into a cause celebre and riles up lots of folks. But at the heart of the issue — five California high school students were kicked off their campus Wednesday for wearing t-shirts and bandannas emblazoned with American flags on Cinco de Mayo — is simple courtesy toward others. [...]

Fenstermacher

May 6th, 2010
9:32 pm

Cinco de Mayo is not an AMERICAN holiday!!

Fenstermacher

May 6th, 2010
9:34 pm

I get so sick of reading the opinions of the people that write these stupid blogs. They all seem to hate America.

Dave

May 6th, 2010
9:45 pm

“But at the heart of the issue … is simple courtesy toward others.” It is too bad that these administrators and Latino students could not extend simple courtesy to their classmates who chose to wear the colors of their nation in violation of no school dress codes. Especially on a day that is a holiday in the United States (remember: there is no holiday to celebrate the Victory at la Puebla, May 5; they prefer to celebrate Independence Day, September 16). But since American students at American schools ought not display the American flag when it is “someone else’s” holiday … today, May 6, is Martyr’s Day in Syria. Any students wearing American or Mexican colors today, at a time when we should be sensitive to our Syrian students, should have been removed from school. May 13 is Gospel Day in Tuvalu. Be sure to wear your Tuvaluan colors AND spread the gospel! May 17 is Constitution Day in Nauru. May 18 is flag day in Haiti, the 20th Independence Day in East Timor, and for those of you with central African roots, the school MUST allow you to bring your sheep in on Cameroon’s May 21st Sheep Festival. May 25 is Africa Day, so students whose roots are in any of the 40+ nations of that contintent will no doubt be offended if you wear your American or Mexican colors then. Can’t wear anything to offend Guyanians or Georgians on their independence day, May 26. And May 28 is Flag day in the Philippines, so no other flags would be appropriate then either. You know, perhaps it would be easier if, in America, we simply celebrated American holidays and displayed the American flag EVERY DAY. We can also wear other flags as the occasion warrants, but always ALWAYS take pride in being American.

Frank

May 6th, 2010
9:49 pm

If I moved to Mexico, I would not expect to celebrate the 4th of July. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday. Mexican-American students may certainly celebrate it if they wish, but their right to celebrate the holiday of a foreign country should not supersede the rights of American students to wear or other wise display the flage of the United States! If the Mexican-American students were allowed to wear shirts showing the Mexican flag, then any other students should have been allowed to wear any other country’s flag, including the American flag.

Frank

May 6th, 2010
9:52 pm

Furthermore, I don’t care what the motivation was, of the students who were displaying the American flag. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, regardless of the reason for the idea being expressed.

Maureen S

May 6th, 2010
10:07 pm

you, Maureen are a disgrace to this country, your employer and our flag.

HStchr

May 6th, 2010
10:12 pm

As a liberal, I have to stand on the side of the kids here- there wasn’t an issue until the administration made one. There’s no way to judge the intent the boys had without them saying what it was. Of course they’ll never admit if they were, in fact, trying to incite some conflict. We had a similar situation after a fight between two boys of different races in my school. A large group of kids wore rebel flag garb the next day. Noone said anything- they just wore the clothes. While the intent may have seemed clear, my principal decided that it would create more conflict and actually play up the potential for conflict by making a public issue out of it. In the end, nothing happened and many teachers actually used the situation as a teachable moment. I had a fantastic lesson with my kids that day about sensitivity and how to maturely deal with conflict and about first amendment rights- I was pleased with how calmly and maturely my high schoolers dealt with it. They were waiting to see what the adults would do, and when we didn’t make it into a problem, it didn’t become one. Most of the kids who might have been offended just refused to let it bother them and said it was no big deal.

In my opinion, the administration in this case inadvertently made a mountain out of a mole hill and will, in the long run, do more harm than good. Unless the kids were making statements, thus yelling fire in a crowded theater, there really wasn’t any need to turn it into a discipline issue.

Legend of Len Barker

May 6th, 2010
10:23 pm

Freedom of speech does not apply here. If the school disagrees with the speech by the students (in this case, if the school views it to be solely a bully move by the kids wearing the flag as a political statement), they have the right to tell the kids to change shirts and take off their bandannas. The students have no recourse outside of suing the school.

The Hazelwood case in the 1980s ruled that students essentially have very little freedom of speech in a public school. This was a reversal of the previous case from the late 1960s or early 1970s when speech was protected as long as it wasn’t a disturbance. Schools can strike down any speech they find offensive and by offensive, it’s whatever suits their standards.

And just because Maureen is asking for students to show some reverence for another person’s culture, she suddenly hates America? Ridiculous. Respecting another person’s background doesn’t mean you’re any less satisfied with your own.

Sam

May 6th, 2010
10:37 pm

I for one will have all three of my kids wear USA flag t-shirts next yr for cinco de mayo, it is a sad day when one has to think twice to show pride in there own country!!!

Mandella1099

May 6th, 2010
10:41 pm

“Let us all remember one thing: students in a public high school are not protected under the First Amendment (see Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD)”

Wrong. They are as long as the speech meets reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions (which this does). The students are now entiltled to punative damages from the assistant principal and the school system under Section 19-41 of the US code.

Besides, this is a non-issue. Maureen would never admit that she was mistaken in that this is a free speech case. She threw this article out there in the hopes that everyone would be supportive of her position. We aren’t, and she suffers from liberal guilt.

Fericita

May 6th, 2010
10:44 pm

“Sorry, if my kids donned the country’s colors only as a dig at their foreign-born classmates, it would not be an action that I would applaud or defend.”

Well said, Maureen.

I think a lot of the comments here are off topic – the importance of May 5 to Mexicans, freedom of speech – the point is, If these kids wore their patriotic garb as a barb, I’m not impressed.

Mandella1099

May 6th, 2010
10:48 pm

The Hazelwood case in the 1980s ruled that students essentially have very little freedom of speech in a public school. This was a reversal of the previous case from the late 1960s or early 1970s when speech was protected as long as it wasn’t a disturbance. Schools can strike down any speech they find offensive and by offensive, it’s whatever suits their standards”

Wrong again. The Hazelwood case was the school system limiting what was prinited in a school sponsored school newspaper. It allowed schools to maintain control of their speech so as to not seem to be supportive of one side of an opinion or another, but it did not change the individual liberties of students dtermined in the Tinker case

The AJC, however, can support opinions which is why Maureen has faced the backlash above and the AJC sales are in the tank.

bootney farnsworth

May 6th, 2010
10:52 pm

God forbid US citizens show pride in their country.
Even worse, make a stand, however small.

I’d have eaten the suspension. And I’d hope my daughter
would do the same.

Funny how the left is always so pro freedom of speech, right
up until the time they disagree with it.

And the AJC wonders why it continues to be irrevelant to most
folks in Atlanta.

bootney farnsworth

May 6th, 2010
10:53 pm

Americans ashamed of other Americans wearing the flag.
For whatever reason.

Pathetic.