According to the panel of judges, despite free-speech rights, the controversial ban on American flags was supposedly needed to prevent “racial tension” from exploding into open violence at the school. Multiple concerns have been raised about the scandal. The battle, however, is far from over.
The saga officially began on May 5, 2010, when Live Oak School bosses ordered students to either turn their patriotic apparel inside out, take it off completely, or be sent home. The administrators’ supposed reasoning for the infringement on free speech, which the three-judge panel on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with, was that wearing U.S. flags on the “Cinco de Mayo” celebration could have stoked racial violence. The Cinco de Mayo holiday commemorates the May 5, 1862 victory over French forces by the Mexican Army in the Battle of Puebla. It is celebrated primarily in the Mexican state of Puebla and by Americans of Mexican ancestry.
The American Freedom Law Center, one of the heavy-hitting organizations supporting the targeted students, slammed the ruling as a discriminatory attack on the First Amendment. “It is truly a sad day when government officials are permitted to ban the American flag on a public high school campus for any reason,” said AFLC co-founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit.
“Here, school officials feared that our clients would offend ‘Mexican’ students if they wore their flag shirts to school on Cinco de Mayo, so they ordered the students to either remove their shirts or leave school in direct violation of their First Amendment rights,” Muise added in a statement released after the ruling. AFLC also pointed out that clothing with Mexican-flag colors was not banned by school officials.
The pro-freedom legal group, led by an orthodox Jew and an orthodox Catholic, said it intends to file a petition for a full-court review. “These students and their parents should be commended for standing up and exercising their rights under the First Amendment,” said AFLC Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi, the other co-founder. “Our rights will only have meaning if we are willing to fight for them.”
Another legal organization defending the students’ rights, FreedomX, was outraged by the controversial decision as well. The organization, which said after the unanimous panel ruling that “the fight is far from over,” will also be seeking a new review by the full Ninth Circuit Court. If necessary, the non-profit group, which defends political and religious freedom, vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
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