Friday, May 07, 2010

On A National Note...

From left, Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matt Dariano and Dominic Maciel were sent home from school Wednesday because they were wearing American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo.

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American flag shirts ignite firestorm

By Lindsay Bryant ; Gilroy Dispatch

May 6, 2010

Four Live Oak High School teens sent home for wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo have become the focus of national media attention and spurred a march by Hispanic students through downtown Morgan Hill.

Live Oak students Daniel Galli, Dominic Maciel, Matt Dariano and Austin Carvalho wore red, white and blue T-shirts - some with the American flag and some with flag shorts - to school Wednesday, prompting administrators to ask the students to change their clothing or turn their T-shirts inside-out because it could incite a confrontation on Cinco de Mayo. The four students' parents were called into a conference with Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez and Principal Nick Boden, who sent the students home with an unexcused absence - not a suspension.

"I just couldn't believe it," said Dominic's mother Julie Fagerstrom Wednesday. "I'm an open-minded parent, but it's got to be on both sides. It can't be five kids singled out."

Students originally reported that five students were sent home, but one returned to class Wednesday.

Maciel said Rodriguez called the T-shirts "incendiary."

"They said we were starting a fight, we were fuel to the fire," said Dariano, a sophomore.

Teresa Casillas, parent of two Live Oak students, said the American-flag wearing students were yelling "We live in America!" at the brunch break Wednesday. She said her children were upset by their behavior at school, calling it disrespectful.

"We're all offended by it," Casillas said. She said parents of all ethnicities she spoke with felt that way. "Morgan Hill is too small of a community to start any racial wars. This is just bringing it out a little bit more."

The incident has set off a firestorm of outrage online, a flurry of media coverage and a backlash from some in the Hispanic community, who have been offended by some of the defenses offered for the four students.

After the Morgan Hill Times broke the story, Bay Area news stations set up camp in front of Live Oak High School Thursday morning as many more students came to school wearing red, white and blue. In addition, the story made it to national media outlets, such as The Drudge Report and the front page of

Locally, about 200 Hispanic students walked out of Live Oak and Ann Sobrato high schools, chanting "Si se puede" and "We want respect" and disrupting traffic as they marched through Morgan Hill to demonstrate their support for Mexico.

"It's disrespectful to do it on Cinco de Mayo," said Jessica Cortez, a Live Oak sophomore. "They can be a patriot on some other day. Not that specific day."

Live Oak parent Greg Hall saw the band of Hispanic students walking down Monterey Road Thursday.

"The fact that these four kids were singled out for wearing American colors is utterly ridiculous," he said. "I think the assistant principal and principal should be fired. The (protesting) students should be disciplined - suspended or expelled."

Hispanic students felt students wearing American flags were disrespecting the Mexican-American students on Cinco de Mayo - a day on which they celebrate their Mexican heritage.

Students who sported red, white and blue said denying them the right to wear American colors is a violation of the First Amendment.

While Live Oak administrators were silent on the issue, Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Wes Smith said that the district "does not prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing."

In a statement, Smith wrote: "The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate. While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken."

The four students and their parents met with Assistant Superintendent Jay Totter Wednesday evening at the district headquarters and they said Totter told them what happened was wrong and "(the district) would take care of it."

Uncle Sam even set foot onto Live Oak campus Thursday in the form of John Messina, a San Jose resident who said he was so enraged that he drove 30 minutes to protest before school started. He held a sign that read "Patriotism is not a crime" on one side and "Support the 1st amendment. Fire Rodriguez" on the back.

Over at Gilroy High School, Mexican and American patriotic colors commingled peacefully Wednesday, Principal Marco Sanchez said.

"Kids were in good spirits," he said. "I was out on campus most of the day and didn't see anything that was abnormal."

Plenty of students donned both countries' national colors, but none were sent home for wearing green, red, white, blue or any combination thereof, he said. Doing so would be "outrageous," he said.

"We're not going to be sending kids home for wearing American flags or wearing patriotic colors," Sanchez said. "That's discriminatory."

William J. Becker Jr., a First Amendment attorney based in Los Angeles, said the students' First Amendment rights were violated.

"The student wearing the Old Navy T-shirt with the flag does not shed their First Amendment rights at the school house gates," Becker said.

Administrators cannot ask students to relinquish their freedom of speech and expression due to the fear that something might happen, Becker said. When a person's right to freedom of speech or expression is restricted to prevent another party from reacting, it's known as the heckler's veto. Becker said this is a perfect example of how heckler's veto was used to displace the students' freedom of speech.

"Every viewpoint has a particular averse viewpoint," Becker said. "That's why the First Amendment is there - to support unpopular expression."

Comments left online on the Times and Gilroy Dispatch websites said the boys are often seen with American flag patches on their backpacks, and Maciel said he's worn the T-shirt he wore on Cinco de Mayo many times before.

"It's just because it was on their day," Maciel said.

One Mexican-American student, freshman Laura Ponce, had a Mexican flag painted on her face and chest, peeking out of her low-cut shirt. She did it because, "it's our day, the only day we can show our spirit."

A school administrator took away the Mexican flag she was carrying as she was waiting to go home.

"Not cool," she said in reaction.

"There was a lot of drama going on today," Ponce said. Some students were saying "Mexico sucks," and Mexican-American students responded in kind, she said.

"Some were yelling Spanish to us," said Maciel, who is half-Hispanic. "I couldn't understand it, but it sounded bad."

Curtis Collier, the president of the U.S. Border Watch, a citizens' action group whose mission is to "stem illegal entry into the U.S. from the north and south," called from his Texas office appalled by the news emanating across the Web and television.

"That is their constitutional right to wear the shirt," Collier said. "I think the school missed a golden opportunity here and missed having a dialogue between the students and have them talk it out."


Travis Allen said...

This of course, will all be forgotten in a few years when these same kids turn 21 and go out drinking, probably at a Hispanic restaurant, in celebration of Cinco De Mayo...

America's probably seen this all before with Saint Patrick's Day and the Irish...

Anonymous said...

The Mexican people who live in this Country and go to our schools need to wake up and realize, they are in AMERICA first and foremost. No one is telling them to forget their heritage or where they come from, but if you are going to come to our country and go to school for FREE off of the backs of the taxpayers in this country then you are going to put AMERICA first, or go back to Mexico.

Anonymous said...

And this happened in California? Not just any part of California, but Northern which tends to be more accepting of all race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It's a sad reflection of society, when rage or behavioral prejudice and discrimination accelerates by those belonging to a "group", and shows how this happens, even in such a liberal state.
So how on earth, in 2010, in the United States of America, in California, in Northern California, where those same Hispanic families fought for their own personal freedom, and American citizenship (or not??)... How did this happen to four American students in their own Country? Arnold, you there???

Anonymous said...

Ustedes necesitan encontrar algo más que hablar. ¡Qué tontería es ésta. Y para ser honesto a quién le importa. Cinco de Mayo fue la celebración de una batalla que se ganó, no otra cosa. Y realmente, ¿cuántos de ustedes sabían eso? ¿Puede alguno de ustedes me diga qué día es el día de la independencia de México?

Yo no lo creía.

Bye bye

Anonymous said...

When it is evident that America and Americans are the ones who devalued over illegal immigrants in this country, then we have lost the America that was. Obama has changed America, for the worst, and I HOPE the idiots that voted for him wake up and realize one day that the middle class and the poor are going to be the most affected by his policies. Yes, HIS policies.

Anonymous said...

You need to find something more than speaking. What foolishness is this. And to be honest to who imports him. Five of May was the celebration of a battle that was won, not another thing. And really, ¿how many of you knew that? Is able some of you tell me what day is the day of the independence of Mexico?

I did not believe it.

Translation of the Spanish post above. Nice one Loco!

It is not importante para me to know what day the Mexican Independence Day is, I live in America and I am American period. I have one parent who was born in another country, and another parent who was born and raised American. I consider myself, American, not Spanish-American, not African-American, not Irish-American, not Asian-American, Just AMERICAN. I know who and where my ancestors came from and how they made it here to America, the legal way, not sneaking over the border, or having anchor babies in America to prevent from being deported.

Si usted no quiere las reglas en América, la parada que trata cambielos, y vuelva al país usted vino de.

Un Patriota, y un norteamericano orgulloso.


Hail Arizona!!

Anonymous said...

The only reason anyone knows what Cinco de Mayo is due to the drinking involved in the Holiday and yummy Mexican food. Other then that, we regular ole Americans have no idea what the real reason is to celebrate. I bet in California though, they study Cinco De Mayo over the Fourth of July. Betcha.