Friday, February 28, 2014

Watch What You Wear

So now we have it. The law of the land says you can burn the American flag but you can’t wear it to school.

That’s the essence of a ruling this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals in California -- wouldn’t you know it.

The quick background is as follows.

In 2010 a few white students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California wore T-shirts emblazoned with the American flag on Cinco de Mayo, where Mexican students planned a school-sanctioned celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day. While there was a school policeman on duty, officials feared campus violence because there had been racially charged problems on Cinco de Mayo the previous year. Thus, officials ordered the white boys to turn their flag shirts inside out or go home. Some left school, and for two days their parents kept them home because rumors flew that Mexican gangbangers from San Jose were going “to take care” of them.

As a result, parents of the white teens sued the school district, contending violation of constitutional guarantees of expression, due process and equal protection. But, a district court dismissed their civil suit before trial. The parents appealed to the Ninth Circuit federal appellate court in San Francisco, which released its decision February 27th, upholding the dismissal. The case is now dead for all intents and purposes.

I fully understand the rationale belying the decision.

Public school officials must protect children from violence and have wide legal leeway to do so, including limiting speech, enforcing dress codes (good reason for school uniforms) and setting aside search and seizure rights to accomplish it. Safety is the basis of this ruling. “School officials’ actions were tailored to avert violence and focused on student safety,” the three federal judges who ruled in the case stated. But, there were other avenues available, with a little forethought. Even the judges mentioned, in passing: “Our role is not to second-guess the decision to have a Cinco de Mayo celebration or the precautions put in place to avoid violence.”

If such culture-specific events stir passions toward violence in our schools, and in this case the troubles at the same school the year before showed this to be the case, the Cinco de Mayo event should never have been held. Indeed, such social events should be jettisoned from schools, leaving them for afterschool Facebook chat. Schools should focus on teaching kids to read, add and subtract and think critically. (Celebrating Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, or Oktoberfest isn’t a skill employers covet in the current cutthroat jobs market.)

While I think this ruling is a constitutional precedent that needs further review, I also have a patriotic objection to its (unintended?) spillover.

San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit is notorious for ignoring facts in support of its decades-long war for social justice. In this case these jihadist judges who are paid as much as $184,000 a year from the federal treasury and who retire at full pay, have jammed their collective thumb up Uncle Sam’s arse. In essence they’ve added shirts overtly displaying the flag of the United States of America to clothing that can be legally banned from being worn in our public schools, joining such clothing as gang colors, the Confederate flag, and other court-sanctioned “inappropriate symbolism.” Yeah. The American flag? Inappropriate symbolism!
Tell that to our nation’s heroes of all races who have fought and died to defend it.

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