A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a California school that forbid its students from wearing American flag shirts on Cinco De Mayo.
The court unanimously decided the school did not violate the students' constitutional rights, explaining administrators' concern of racial violence outweighed the students' rights to freedom of expression. (Via KCAL)
The case dates back to May 2010, when the principal of Live Oak High School told a group of students to turn their American flag shirts inside out or take them off — fearing the shirts would enrage Latino students celebrating the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo. (Via WDAF)
The students refused, and later, with the backing of politically conservative legal aid foundation the American Freedom Law Center, brought a civil rights lawsuit against the school and two of its administrators for allegedly violating their First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit forced the three-judge panel to take up the difficult question of what takes precedence — students' rights to expression or the school's safety concerns? (Via XETV)
Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the school after it was revealed a similar incident nearly escalated into violence the previous year.
The court's opinion reads that incident: "made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real." (Via CBS)
A UCLA law professor writes for The Washington Post that the court seemed to properly apply the previous legal precedent to this case, but argues that the law itself might be misguided here.
"[It] taught ... students a simple lesson: If you dislike speech and want it suppressed, then you can get what you want by threatening violence against the speakers. The school will cave in, the speakers will be shut up, and you and your ideology will win."
The students' lawyers plan to appeal the case to a special 11 judge panel. They say they are prepared to fight it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.