Published on:

California Parents Sue in Federal Court Over American Flag T-Shirts

On Cinco de Mayo, students wearing T-shirts with the American flag on them were asked by the assistant principal to remove them. That controversial move made national news and is now headed to federal court. The parents of three of the students attending Live Oak High School filed federal civil rights lawsuits in US District Court in San Jose. Students say they are fighting for their First Amendment Rights.

Flag_shirt.JPGThe students and parents in the case want a judge to rule that the incident that occurred on May 5th was a violation of their First and Fourteenth amendment rights and that the school district’s policy on student speech is not clear. The suit also asks for nominal damages and attorney fees to be paid by the school district. Named as defendants in the case are Morgan Hill Unified School District, the principal Nick Boden and assistant principal Miguel Rodriguez.

The incident involved Rodriguez asking the three boys to take off their t-shirts with the American flag on them or to wear them inside out on Cinco de Mayo. He believed wearing them on the holiday was incendiary. The boys thought this was disrespectful and called their parents. The boys are all part Latino. The case quickly hit news media around the country.

The Superintendent of the school district made a statement the next day that the school district does not prohibit or punish students from wearing clothing that is patriotic nor that students should be disciplined for wearing it.

While the actions of the assistant principal seemed wrong, the school does not have a policy that is in violation of the rights of students. First Amendment Coalition in San Rafael executive director Peter Scheer stated that the federal lawsuit may not be valid since the students do not have a “case or controversy” in policy. The school district claims it made a mistake. This means the controversy is now in the past and may not be able to be a part of a federal lawsuit.