In 2010, Live Oak High School came under legal scrutiny when five white male students–Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matthew Dariano and Dominic Marciel and Clayton Howard–were asked to turn their US flag T-shirts inside out or go home. The administrative concern was campus safety.

The reason was, according to the Mercury News, “a history of threats and campus strife between Latino and Anglo students that raised fears of violence on the day the school was highlighting Cinco de Mayo.”

The parents of the students brought a lawsuit against the Morgan Hill Unified School District.

In February of last year, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously sided with the Morgan Hill Unified School District. Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote “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” and that the past events “made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real.”

This affirmed the decision by former Chief US District Judge James Ware who had also sided with the school district. The decision is based on the 1969 US Supreme Court ruling of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The Tinkers were siblings who planned on wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam War and support a Christmas Truce that then-Senator Robert F. Kennedy had called for.  The court found that the Tinkers wearing of armbands did not cause a disruption and their activity was protected free speech.  “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” however school officials can justify censoring free expressions if they can show “that [their] action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” and the forbidden conduct might “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”

These are not the only aspects of student speech that can be censored. In 1986, Bethel School District v. Fraser found that speech before a student assembly that was filled with sexual innuendo was not constitutionally protected speech. School administrators could exercise prior restraint. The 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision by the Supreme Court held that in public high school curricular student newspapers, administrators of the school can exercise prior restraint of school-sponsored expression. Newspapers and assembly speeches are thus subject to censorship and are considered limited public forums and expression.

Because the US Supreme Court as denied an appeal, the appellate court ruling stands.

Cinco de Mayo has a long history in California.  California has a long and troubled history with Mexico and Mexican-Americans.  California was a Spanish colony from 1769-1821 and then part of Mexico from 1821 to 1848.It is believed to have been first celebrated in the 1860s in California when Mexican miners celebrated the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla. In the 1940s, the Chicano movement promoted it as a means of embracing Mexican history at the same time where Los Angeles and other areas were experiencing Zoot Suit Riots.

According to the Oakland Museum of California, during the Great Depression, Mexican Americans were sometimes sent back to Mexico because there was “no differentiation between Mexican and Mexican American US citizens.”

The Morgan Hill School District is 49 percent Latino and 36 percent white for the 2013-2014 academic year. Of that school population only 10 percent were considered English language learners. the majority, 87 percent, understand some level of Spanish.  The city of Morgan Hill has about 37,000 residents and is located 70 mile south of San Francisco, between San Jose and Salinas. The whole district serves about 8,700 students. Live Oak High has school colors of yellow and green. The mascot is an acorn and the motto is “Go Nuts.”

In California, Latinos are the largest racial/ethnic group in California at 39 percent in 2014. That means California is the second state in the US in which people who self-identify as white are not the majority.

Yet when an article on this issue was posted on Yahoo, people really “Go Nuts.” The conversation quickly displays open prejudices against Latinos as many assume that this involves illegals or non-citizens. The love-it-or-leave it attitude is again brought up. Is it any wonder that there’s animosity between Latinos and whites when people so readily identify Latinos as non-citizens?

 Jackie wrote:

Not pandering to anything…just saying if we live and go to a school in another nation and start complaining about their people wearing a shirt with their flag on it, it could be considered offensive to them and they would not want to fund our education or pay for our food, medicine or housing. It’s one thing to wear it as a visitor to show who you are and that you are visiting. But to start fights over that or trying to change their right to wear their flag or say their allegiance or make them honor our country when in their country would be stupid and asking for trouble.

 JoshM complained:

So let me get this straight? The Mexican flag was allowed to be raised, my guess is there were kids with Mexican flag shirts, although that’s just a guess, yet those with the American flag shirts were told to flip their shirts inside out? This is the United States of America, go back to Mexico if you’re “offended” by the American flag, where you LIVE. Plus the message these school officials are sending is that these flags and therefore countries are rivals or oppositions, and therefore their flags can’t be seen together. Apparently it’s okay for one group to celebrate their heritage but not for another.

Don wrote:

Why in hell American schools have to celebrate a stupid Mexican 5 de Mayo day? This conflict arises because of more and more illegal alien Mexicans are allowed in our schools by the corrupted public servants we have in our government. I would not care what a traitor and coward school principal has to say; I will proudly display the American flag. It’s time to take a stand and don’t allow these ungrateful illegal alien taxpayers’ suckers disrespect our flag, our country and our values!!

Tricia commented:

We are rapidly losing our nation to an invasion of illegal foreigners who have no loyalty; or connection to our history, Constitution or anything else. California is just the beginning of what is going to happen; when these foreigners gain the majority. These types of rulings will become the norm. We will see our nation stripped of it’s Constitutional rights, our history, and way of life. The Mexican flags are the ones that should have been banned. They do not belong in American taxpayer funded schools. Forcing these American students to remove an American flag shirt; in favor of Mexican flags is an insult to every veteran who fought and died for it. The Supreme court should have sided with the students. There is no way a foreign flag should ever take precedence over an American. These judges and politicians are a disgrace to this nation.

My high school celebrating Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day. How about yours?

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