On Thursday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a California high school’s decision to outlaw American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo.
Officials at Live Oak High School banned American flags on May 5, 2010 because the year before there had been altercations between white students and Mexican students. There were American flags and chants of “USA.” According to reports, there were also Mexican flags and kids running around saying, “Fuck them white boys. Let’s fuck them up.”
This is but one reason I don’t support government institutions promoting celebrations of…..anything. It’s not within the scope and charter of the school system to organize and dedicate a day to anything outside of the planned curriculum.
As an additional note for the reporting of this event, the minority students in question are NOT Mexican students….they are American students.
Here’s Volokh’s rendering of the verdict:
This is a classic “heckler’s veto” — thugs threatening to attack the speaker, and government officials suppressing the speech to prevent such violence. “Heckler’s vetoes” are generally not allowed under First Amendment law; the government should generally protect the speaker and threaten to arrest the thugs, not suppress the speaker’s speech. But under Tinker‘s “forecast substantial disruption” test, such a heckler’s veto is indeed allowed.
Somehow, we’ve reached the point that students can’t safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it — and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students’ speech). Something is badly wrong, whether such an incident happens on May 5 or any other day.
And this is especially so because behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. The school taught its 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. When thuggery pays, the result is more thuggery. Is that the education we want our students to be getting?