Appeals court upholds school’s ban on American flag shirts for ‘safety’ reasons

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The most liberal court in the land ruled Thursday that students in California have no right to wear an American flag t-shirt because it could offend those celebrating the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said concerns of racial violence outweighed a student’s freedom of expression rights, The Associated Press reported.

“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,” Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel. The past events “made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real,” she wrote.

A ruling that, in effect, means American students cannot display the American flag in an American school because students celebrating a foreign holiday may react violently.

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The decision was based on school officials at a San Jose high school telling students to turn the offending garments inside out to avoid provoking Latino students — the school has a history of racial problems while observing the holiday.

“The 9th Circuit upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating a holiday of another country over U.S. student proudly supporting this country,” William Becker, a lawyer representing the students, told the Associated Press.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French army at the battle of Puebla in 1862. The holiday is celebrated with much more fanfare in the United States than in Mexico, where it is acknowledged in a more low-key manner.

Becker said he would appeal the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

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Tom Tillison

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