Let the Flag Fly!

By:  Daniel Nardini

                             Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIt does not seem like three years have passed since three high school students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hills, California, wore t-shirts with the U.S. flag emblazoned on them. The vice-principal at the time, fearing that there would be serious violence since these three wore representations of an American flag to school on Cinco de Mayo, told the students to turn their shirts inside-out or go home. The students went home, and their parents filed in court alleging that their children had been denied their First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
                              That suit was thrown out in 2011 by a lower federal court that stated a high school has a wide latitude to use its discretionary powers to stop what might have been violence even if it trampled on the First Amendment rights of students. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that it is looking into the case with the view that the rights of the three students were unnecessarily violated. In my view, the rights of these three students were indeed violated, and it was wrong for any official at the school to tell these students to not show the American flag at an American high school no matter how explosive the situation.
                              The American flag is more than just a piece of cloth or a representation—it is a symbol that Americans have been fighting for over 200 years. How can a vice-principal, or any public school official (who is paid by U.S. tax dollars by the way), tell American students to not wear the symbol of their country? Even if there were Cinco de Mayo celebrations being held, the American flag is still very much part of that celebration. For it was the United States that helped the administration of then Mexican President Benito Juarez eventually defeat the French in Mexico’s long fight for freedom from French rule.
                             Maybe there might have been violence from some of the students, or gangs who infiltrated into the school, but in my view there can be no excuse for any school administrator to forbid any student from flying the American flag or having a representation of it. And of course I ask the question when do the gangs dictate what happens in our public schools? I find it very sad that this whole episode of freedom of speech has to be fought out in the courts. Even though the three students who are fighting this fight have long since graduated and moved on, they are still fighting this one out in court to protect the free speech of those in not only this one California school but I hope for all high school students throughout the nation. I most certainly hope they win—losing on this fundamental right of freedom of speech is too inconceivable to consider.

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