National Furor Over California School’s American Flag Ban Results in Federal Lawsuit

On May 5, 2010, a few patriotic students at Live Oak High School in the Morgan Hill Unified School District in California, were caught wearing pro-U.S.A. shirts depicting images of the American flag.  Outraged school officials angrily gave them options: take the shirts off, turn them inside out, or leave.  The students refused to disrespect their country and flag—so they left.

The furor of patriotic groups across the nation exploded when they discovered the school’s double standard.  These same officials had no problem with students wearing pro-Mexican shirts, body paint displaying Mexican flags, and other displays of their pro-Mexican feelings.

As a result, the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with local California attorney William J. Becker, Jr. and The Rutherford Institute filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three of the students and their parents, claiming that school officials violated the students’ constitutional rights.  [Click here to read Complaint].

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), commented, “The American flag is a sacred symbol of our country.  Too many Americans—including those of Mexican descent—have suffered and died protecting it.  It’s incomprehensible that American school officials would demand that students remove this display of love for country.  We’re Americans 365 days a year.  The students were right not to surrender our flag.”

A meeting with the parents of the patriotic students on the day of the incident demonstrated the attitude of the school.  One of the parents, herself half-Mexican, took offense at the American flag ban, and stated, “Isn’t this America?”  The assistant principal responded, “Not today, we need to give them their day today.”

As alleged in the complaint, these students were not allowed to wear their pro-U.S.A. shirts to school; however, other students were permitted to express a pro-Mexico viewpoint through message-bearing shirts and body paint, displaying Mexican flags, and through other forms of speech, such as singing and dancing.

TMLC Senior Trial Counsel handling the case, Robert Muise, commented, “The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the school house gate.  The actions of the school officials in this case are not only reprehensible; they are a blatant violation of fundamental constitutional rights.”

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