A three-judge panel comprised of members of the ardently-liberal federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “[s]chool officials have greater constitutional latitude to suppress student speech than to punish it.” The decision supports school officials at a government-run Northern California high school who demanded that students wearing American flag shirts remove them so as to not offend other students who were celebrating the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.
In the 2010 incident, officials at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill Unified School District outside of San Jose ordered students to remove or turn the American flag clothing they were wearing inside out. Those students who refused that day were sent home (but not otherwise punished). Officials said they feared that the safety of the students was at risk from other students who were celebrating the Mexican holiday marking the 1862 Battle of Puebla.
The 9th Circuit panel ruled unanimously against the students’ free speech rights, writing that the actions of school officials was “tailored to avert violence and focused on student safety.” The lawyer for the flag-wearing student says he plans to appeal the decision.
Members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network oppose the decision 9th Circuit, noting that the judges “fumbled” the First Amendment.
Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper said:
Demonstrating once again why the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has the reputation for being the most liberal circuit in the country, the judges there fumbled yet another case. Here, it involved the First Amendment.
In this latest ruling, the 9th Circuit decided that Northern California high school administrators can lawfully order students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn the garments inside out or force them to leave campus during the Mexican heritage celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
This decision couldn’t be more wrong.
The issue in this case isn’t whether there are circumstances when the dress or attire of young people creates a dangerous environment — it is whether the administrators can create the very environment they now claim will lead to violence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has authorized limits on expression by students in the name of safety, but they’ve never said that students forfeit their rights of expression because the school had decided to engage in speech or expression that the students disagree with.
If school leaders truly believe that students wearing American flag or other patriotic gear will lead to violence from others, then the school should really reconsider holding the Cinco de Mayo event instead.
Project 21 member Shelby Emmett added:
I’m shaking my head over this.
So, now, if people are celebrating another nation’s independence on American soil, American kids can’t wear clothing with their own flag on it due to a fear of violence?
Nope, sorry. If this was my school district, I’d have my kid pulled out of this school so quick — and my tax dollars as well!