Kids Banned From Wearing 'Disruptive' American Flag T-Shirts to School

On Monday, March 30, the United States Supreme Court made a decision that should upset every parent. They didn't rule on a case -- instead they chose not to hear an appeal, which effectively makes it entirely legal for schools to ban American flag T-shirts and other patriotic paraphernalia.


The Court declined to hear the case of Dariano v. Morgan Hills School District, which centered around First Amendment issues and students' rights to wear clothing that resembles the American Flag. 

In 2010, administrators at Live Oak High School near San Jose, California banned students from wearing American flag T-Shirts on Cinco de Mayo, because "it might upset students of Mexican heritage."

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According to court documents, the students wearing the shirts were non-violent, non-combative, and issued no threats -- they simply showed up at school wearing something that showed off the American flag. School officials were apparently worried that they may be harassed by Hispanic students celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Side note: Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with huge fanfare is a decidedly American past time. Mexicans don't celebrate the holiday any more than Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus Day. But you know, history and cultural knowledge are hard.

Anyway, the kids wearing American flag T-shirts were asked to turn their shirts inside out, so as not to incite violence by their Hispanic classmates. Their parents filed a suit, claiming that their First Amendment rights to free speech were being suppressed.

A federal judge threw the case out, agreeing with the school that the American flag shirts "could cause a substantial disruption." No word on whether or not they took the American flag down from the flagpole that day.

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The case then went to the notoriously liberal, San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled that administrators were right to ban the shirts in an "era of rampant school violence." They stated, "To require school officials to precisely identify the source of a violent threat before taking readily-available steps to quell the threat would burden officials' ability to protect the students in their charge."

Um, or they could've cracked down on any students who might have bullied the kids passively celebrating their country by wearing one of its national symbols.

So the case finally made it all the way to the Supreme Court ... and they declined to hear it, without further comment as to why. Which means that the lower court standing remains valid, and kids are no longer allowed to wear an American flag shirt to school, so long as school administrators believe they will be bullied for it.

What a great way to teach kids about the First Amendment, free speech, and tolerating opposing views. Instead of using this as an opportunity as a teaching experience, and punishing anyone who got violent for any reason, the school banned patriotic T-shirts.

In an era when we're so concerned with bullies, why would the Supreme Court refuse to hear an appeals case regarding the issue? The school was worried that bullies would incite violence against students expressing their patriotism, so rather than cracking down on that, they simply banned expressions of American pride.

No one outside of the Court knows why they declined to hear the case, but by doing so, they have done a disservice to all kids across America, who now have no legal right to wear anything depicting our national flag. After all, it might upset some of the other students.

Do you think kids should be allowed to wear American flag shirts to school?


Image via Shannon Lowe/Flickr

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