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Court OKs ban on American flag shirts to protect students' safety

An appeals court ruled that students' first amendment rights were less important than school security concerns.
An American flag t-shirt.
An American flag t-shirt.

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a California high school did not violate the rights of its students when it ordered children wearing American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo to turn them inside out.

Administrators at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill had argued that concerns over violence between white and Latino students during the holiday celebration were serious enough to override questions of free speech, according to a report by the Associated Press.

A three-judge panel from the 9th circuit court of appeals agreed unanimously that prior problems between students on the holiday raised sufficient security concerns to justify the order.

The appeals court said in its decision that ensuring students' safety is reasonable cause to place limits on student rights. Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote, "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," and that previous altercations "made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real."

Conservative supporters of the students who wore the American flag shirts argued that the school had disrespected the heritage of American students. "The 9th Circuit upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating a holiday of another country over U.S. student proudly supporting this country," William Becker, a lawyer representing the students, said of the decision. He also said he will ask an eleven-judge panel to hear the case and that he will appeal to the Supreme Court if he loses again.