Censor De Mayo: School Orders Students To Remove American Flag Tee-Shirts On Cinco De Mayo

Oak High School In Morgan Hill, California is now ground zero for a free speech controversy after five students were told to turn their tee-shirts with American flags inside out and remove flag bandannas from their heads. The reason was that it was viewed as inappropriate on Cinco de Mayo day.

The students were sitting at an outside table when Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez confronted them about their tee-shirts.

Daniel Galli and his four friends refused to comply and were ordered to go to the principal’s office. They say that they were told that their tee-shirts would be appropriate on any other day, but it was viewed as insensitive on Cinco de Mayo.

The boys went home because they were told they would be suspended if they went back to class wearing the offensive shirts.

I find this whole story disturbing. Putting aside the overheated rhetoric from hard-right commentators, I do view this as a violation of the free speech rights of the students. Just as students should feel free to wear a Mexican flag tee-shirt on the Fourth of July, public schools are diverse in not only their demographics but their views. They are microcosms of society and we should be reinforcing speech rights, not teaching children to comply with the fluid and subjective views of authority figures. It is also not a good way to promote tolerance among different groups by telling some students that the American flag is insulting. There should be no conflict in wearing an American flag while celebrating Cinco de Mayo. The students are not accused of offensive speech or conduct beyond wearing the shirts. They may indeed have worn the flags out of some antagonism for the holiday, but, absent misconduct, the officials went too far in ordering them to change their shirts or leave school. It teaches the worst possible lesson to students (and future citizens) about the rights of speech and association.

For the full story, click here.

38 thoughts on “Censor De Mayo: School Orders Students To Remove American Flag Tee-Shirts On Cinco De Mayo”

  1. Harry Weaver:

    I once had a friend who went through the officer training about how to behave when captured, he spit on a flag that was on the ground. When asked why, he said that once it had touched the floor it was no longer a flag of the US. His “captors” agreed with him.

    He went to the Naval Academy, if that is good enough for them it certainly is good enough for me.

    And anyway the “flags” those kids were wearing weren’t really flags but abstractions or at least that is what it looked like to me.

    A real patriot doesn’t need mythic symbols used to prove their love of country. I love the USA, but to me the flag is only a piece of fabric given “pseudo-magical” qualities by people to prove their patriotism. There are certainly much more contstructive ways to do that than investing a symbol with mythic qualities.

  3. For you bozo’s that don’t apparently know the flag code:
    §8. Respect for flag
    No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

    a.The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
    b.The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
    c.The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
    d.The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
    e.The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
    f.The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
    g.The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
    h.The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
    i.The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
    j.No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
    k.The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning

    8.d:; states that the flag should never be worn as apparel. Enjoy your ignorance you idiots.

  4. “What is this country come to? Wearing the American flag is patriotic and promotes citizenship.”

    While I agree that these students should not have had their free speech rights interfered with, I think you statement above is silly. Wearing of the flag is just a symbol used by people to make diverse points, many of which conflict with each other. As for promoting citizenship in the context of America that is nonsense. good citizenship is a belief in our constitution and the liberties it provides and that comes from education. Too many of our “flag wearers” talk the the talk of being good citizens, but consistently fail to walk the walk. This is exemplified by the Tea Bagging Movement, Sarah Palin and the warlike draft evaders of the Bush administration.

  5. What is this country come to? Wearing the American flag is patriotic and promotes citizenship. This is not Mexico and we should not put Mexican celebrations ahead of American culture. The administration should be fired for taking tax dollars as their salaries while at the same time supporting another country over their own.

  6. Harry Wheeler:

    I agree the issue is a personnel matter, but does firing the offender serve to teach tolerance of opposing ideas? It’s also an “ignorance” matter-of history, of the Constitution, and of squandering an opportunity to celebrate our unity instead of promoting tribalism.

    I would recommend the vice principal apologize to the students and present them with a power point of the Mexican-Americans who died in foreign wars to protect that flag he just censored. He could start with the 200th and 515th New Mexico Battalions of National Guardsmen who suffered the Bataan Death March.

  7. wonder what they would have done about confederate flag tees?

    never made it to new orleans. did go to memphis for a st. patricks day pub crawl though.

  8. I personally feel that Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez needs to be fired. Like it or not, the American Flag is the flag of this country. Many American men and women of all nationalities and races have laid down their lives in defense of the country that this flag represents. Vice Principle Rodriguez, shame on you.

  9. I’m with Kook. Cinco de Mayo is a beer company holiday in this country. So eat all that spicy, salty goodness! It sure goes go with a (insert beer brand of choice here)!

    But then again, party for the sake of party? I used to live in New Orleans. Those people will party because it’s a day ending in “y”. There’s something to be said for that.

  10. “The only reason that this date is celebrated is that”..

    it gives Americans an excuse to drink while wearing comical hats, just like St Patrick’s day

  11. The only reason that this date is celebrated is that the Mexican repelled the forces France which at the time the US was previously engaged in it own skirmish. The reason the French were attempting to take over control of Mexico is they owed massive debts to Great Britain, Spain and France.

    As stated the US was previously engaged in it own skirmishes and could not enforce the “Monroe” Doctrine. There was assistance given though. Federal Military troop stationed in California during that time served a great purpose as well as those in Texas.

    So the bottom line is Who the hell cares. It was not a battle that the US was directly involved in.


  12. From the article: “They said if we tried to go back to class with our shirts not taken off, they said it was defiance and we would get suspended,” Dominic Maciel, Galli’s friend, said.

    “The holiday of Cinco de Mayo 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 city and state of Puebla. It is not Mexico’s Independence Day which is in September.” (source – Mexonline)

    Perhaps, in the end, Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez, the originator of the order, was more concerned with the “defiance” of his authority than anything else.

  13. Really Frank… the American flag = bigotry? A bit of s stretch, no? Would hate to live in your world with a vision so skewed and such delicate sensibilities… bet you are a treat to deal with.

    And kudos to LJM for making some sense in response to a person that I doubt will ever “get it”.

  14. As far as the threat of violence maybe a good ass-kicking would teach these boys that they have the right to express their bigotry but they there is no right to no consequences of their bigotry.

    Actually, people do have a right to not have violence committed against them for expressing ideas. That’s why anyone stupid enough to give them “a good ass-kicking” for expressing unpleasant ideas would be justifiably punished.

  15. As far as the threat of violence maybe a good ass-kicking would teach these boys that they have the right to express their bigotry but they there is no right to no consequences of their bigotry.

  16. my guess is that the boys are jackasses & wanted to make a statement. But that is irrelevant. The school officials made a small matter that might have been a teachable moment about how not to appear to be a jackass and turned it into a free speech issue where I have to side with jackasses.

    These same jackasses would probably be the first to complain about t-shirts with Mexican flags on them and the same dumbass officials would probably make the same stupid call on that one too.

  17. This is a clear violation of the Tinker decision, and even if the students were making some right-wing counterpoint to cultural diversity, they have the right to do so. If the school administrator reasonably believed the shirts/bandanas would lead to certain violence, I would modify this stance, but it’s hard to imagine why he would. There needs to be a compelling factual case for this threat, which I simply don’t see here. The District didn’t see it either, rescinding the suspension and allowing the students to return, still sporting their patriotic garb. The troubling aspect is why anyone placed in a position of authority would feel that wearing the symbol of our unity would be disrespectful to Mexican-Americans who fought valiantly in many wars for that color scheme. This is more a personnel problem than a Constitutional one.

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