A federal court has ruled that a California public school had the authority to prevent students from wearing clothing emblazoned with pro-American messages on the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo.
U. S. District Court Judge James Ware was ruling in a case involving students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, CA, who were banned from wearing American flag t-shirts on the Mexican holiday in 2010.
The judge determined that the Morgan Hill Unified School District did not violate the First Amendment and said that concerns by school officials over possible violence justified censoring the pro-American message.
“The school officials reasonable forecast that Plaintiff’s clothing could cause a substantial disruption with school activities, and therefore did not violate the standard set forth – by requiring that Plaintiff’s change,” the judge wrote.
“This is nothing more than political correctness,” said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. His organization, along with Thomas More Law Center, represented the students and their families in the lawsuit.
“If these kinds of decisions are upheld, they will destroy our First Amendment rights,” Whitehead told Fox News.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that generated national attention last May when three students wore patriotic t-shirts, shorts and shoes to class.
Whitehead said the boys were approached by assistant principal Miguel Rodriguez who instructed them to either remove their pro-American shirts or turning them inside out.
“The students were told their shirts would offend Hispanics,” Whitehead said.
The students refused to change because they said it would be disrespectful to the flag. At that point, Whitehead said they were ordered to the office where Rodriguez allegedly lectured the trio on Cinco de Mayo and told them that their clothing would offend Hispanic students on “their” day.
Whitehead said the school’s behavior was incredibly offensive.
“It’s offensive to most Americans,” Whitehead told Fox News. “The symbol of America is the American flag.”
The school district maintained their only concern was student safety – and that’s why they asked the boys to change their shirts.
Wes Smith, the superintendent of the school district, told Fox News that he is “very satisfied with the decision.”
“We were encouraged to hear that the federal court found student safety paramount,” Smith said. “The other finding – that we did not infringe or deny students their First Amendment rights was also encouraging.”
Rutherford said they plan on appealing the judge’s decision, arguing that it sends a terrible message to students.
“It teaches students that at any moment, any time, a state official can shut down free speech and that’s what we’re going to fight against,” he said.
Smith noted that the 2011 Cinco de Mayo celebration went off without a hitch.