AFLC Argues that Public School Students Have Constitutional Rights

Today, AFLC filed its reply brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in its defense of three California high school students who were prohibited by school officials for wearing American Flag apparel on May 5, 2010 – or, as some Mexican students were celebrating that day, “Cinco de Mayo.” You can read about the case in detail here — but in a nutshell, students participating in the Cinco de Mayo celebration on that day were permitted to wear clothing that had the colors of the Mexican flag (In fact, school officials acknowledged seeing the Mexican flag painted on some students), but when five students (three are plaintiffs) wanted to wear pro-American apparel, the Assistant Principal told the students to turn their American flag t-shirts inside out.

School officials claimed that the students’ pro-America message was objectionable, because “this is their [i.e., Mexicans’] day,” referring to Cinco De Mayo, “an important day in [Mexican] culture.”

AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise, along with co-counsel, filed a civil rights lawsuit in June 2010 on behalf of three of the students.  But in November 2011, a federal judge presiding in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that the school officials did not violate the Constitution by restricting the students’ patriotic speech. As a result, AFLC appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  And as AFLC notes in the reply brief:

Students do possess constitutional rights on a public school campus—a conclusion that can only be changed by the Supreme Court— and the government—in the form of school officials here—must abide by the proscriptions set forth in the First Amendment—proscriptions that are not mere platitudes to be cast aside to avoid discomfort that might accompany competing and contentious political viewpoints.

Unfortunately, in California schools, the American flag – a symbol of respect for the Nation – is considered secondary to the nationalistic pride of Mexicans and other forms of multiculturalism. In sum, our public schools are turning into “enclaves of totalitariansim,” which is why AFLC is on the front lines fighting for our American freedoms.