A federal appeals court has upheld a California school’s decision to bar white students from wearing shirts depicting the U.S. flag during the school’s Cinco De Mayo celebration. In 2009, Live Oak High School had a Cinco De Mayo celebration which was characterized by a minor clash between white students and students of Mexican descent. The next year, several white students wore American flag shirts to school on Cinco De Mayo, resulting in some students expressing concerns to school officials that these shirts were intended to provoke Mexican-American students.
As a result of concerns about disruptions at the school, the assistant principal instructed the white students wearing American flag shirts to turn them inside out or go home. Two of these students sued the school district, alleging violation of their First Amendment right of free speech.
In February 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in Dariano v. Morgan Hill United School District, upheld a district court’s decision granting summary judgment on behalf of the assistant principal, holding that he did not violate the student’s rights.
Although the Court of Appeals stopped short of endorsing the school’s decision, it held that the school had imposed “minimal” restrictions on student expression in light of a legitimate concern for student safety, taking actions that were “tailored to avert violence and focused on student safety.”