Tolerate our intolerance, or else.
Appeals judge: California school was right to ban ‘offensive’ American flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo
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Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that, back in 2010, a California’s Live Oak High School was right to ban American Flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. The case stemmed from an incident almost four years ago, where students wearing shirts emblazoned with the United States Flag were ordered to turn them inside out or remove them. The students refused.
School officials claimed that the shirts were “incendiary” given that they were being worn during Live Oak’s organized celebration of a Mexican holiday. Apparently, this American school has had a history of Latino gang violence problems and decided that the best way to keep kids safe was to force them to remove the offending American flags.
The case dates back to May 5, 2010, when the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, asked a group of students wearing American flag T-shirts to turn their shirts inside out or take them off.
The students at the Northern California school refused, according to the appeals court’s summary of the case, and later brought a civil rights suit against the school and two administrators, arguing that their rights to freedom of expression, equal protection and due process had been violated.
Judges said the civil rights case forced them to weigh the difficult question of what takes precedence: students’ free speech rights or school safety concerns?
According to court documents, the incident occurred amid “ongoing racial tension and gang violence within the school, and after a near-violent altercation had erupted during the prior Cinco de Mayo over the display of an American flag.”
Yep, you read that right. Rather than respond to the violence from the previous Cinco de Mayo party by - oh, I don’t know - not having one; the school decided to keep kids safe by banning clolthes which bore the U.S. flag.
“The controversy and tension remained,” a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in their opinion, “but the school’s actions presciently avoided an altercation.”
The opinion basically states that the threat of violence was credible, so the need to make sure everyone was safe trumped the First Amendment. Never mind the painfully obvious fact that seeing a U.S. flag - inside the United States - shouldn’t really be an issue. Moreover, don’t wrack your brain trying to figure out why a U.S. high school is celebrating the Battle of Puebla - Mexico’s (very) short-lived 1862 military victory over France.
What’s important here is that a court has actually held that these students’ free speech rights hinge on how their opinions will be perceived by someone who might want to do them harm. If you’re a thug who issues a serious enough threat, you now have the upper hand. Instead of dealing with the threat itself, school administrators should just to cave to the potential violence and silence the “offending” party.
In this case, that meant “bye-bye U.S. flags.”
In essence, the court has legitimized violence by suggesting that threats take precedence over free speech. If you want someone in your school silenced, just threaten to beat them senseless. If your threat is credible enough, the school will do the heavy lifting for you. Why should they waste time solving their gang violence problem when they can just appease?
“Tolerance” run amok.