Live Oak High School students (from left): Daniel Galli, Austin Carvalho, Matt Dariano and Dominic Maciel (photo: Gilroy Dispatch)
Five high-school students were sent home from school for wearing American flag T-shirts when they were expected to be “fostering a spirit of cultural awareness” on a Mexican holiday.
Meanwhile, students wearing the colors of the Mexican flag were allowed to remain at school.
Administrators at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., called the T-shirts “incendiary” when they were worn on Cinco de Mayo, the Gilroy Dispatch reported.
“They said we were starting a fight, we were fuel to the fire,” sophomore Matt Dariano told the paper.
The Morgan Hill Unified School District issued the following statement: “In an attempt to foster a spirit of cultural awareness and maintain a safe and supportive school environment, the Live Oak High School administration took certain actions earlier today. The district does not concur with the Live Oak High School administration’s interpretation of either board or district policy related to these actions.”
According to the report, five boys were confronted during their lunch break by Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez while they wore American flag bandannas and T-shirts. The teens said they were sitting at a table and talking just as they always do. Rodriguez asked them to remove the bandannas, and the boys said they obeyed.
Then, sophomore Dominic Maciel told the paper, Rodriguez told his group to “walk with him to the office.”
“They said we could wear it on any other day,” Daniel Galli told NBC News yesterday. “But today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it’s supposed to be their holiday so we are not allowed to wear it today.”
Dariano called his mother. She informed other parents of what had taken place. A group of parents arrived to have a conference with Rodriguez and Principal Nick Boden.
School administrators instructed the teens to turn their T-shirts inside-out or they would be sent home. Maciel told NBC the boys were told they would be suspended if they returned to their classes wearing the T-shirts.
Rodriguez didn’t want fights to break out among “Mexican-American students” and those wearing American flags, the Dispatch reported. Dariano told the paper other students wore American flags as well.
The teens refused to turn their T-shirts inside-out because they said it was disrespectful, so the parents took them home.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Dominic’s mother, Julie Fagerstrom, told the Dispatch. “I’m an open-minded parent, but it’s got to be on both sides. It can’t be five kids singled out.”
According to the report, more than 100 students were seen wearing red, white and green as they left school. Some even their faces and arms painted with the colors of the Mexican flag.
While the Live Oak dress code doesn’t address flag colors, it states that “the school has the right to request that any student dressing inappropriately for school will change into other clothes, be sent home to change, and/or be subject to disciplinary action.”
Freshman Laura Ponce painted a Mexican flag on her face and chest. She told the paper she did it because, “It’s our day, the only day we can show our spirit.”
A school official confiscated a Mexican flag she carried as she waited to go home. Ponce said: “not cool.”
“There was a lot of drama going on today,” Ponce said. Some were saying “Mexico sucks,” while other students responded in Spanish.
“Some were yelling Spanish to us,” Maciel said, who is half-Hispanic. “I couldn’t understand it, but it sounded bad.”
The Dispatch reported that no students were sent home for wearing red, white and green. However, their flags were confiscated.
Some Hispanic students told NBC they were offended at the boys’
“I think they should apologize ’cause it is a Mexican
heritage day,” Live Oak High student Annicia Nunez said. “We don’t
deserve to be disrespected like that. We wouldn’t do that on the Fourth
But Galli responded, “I did nothing wrong. I went along with my normal day. I might have worn an American flag, but I’m an American and I’m proud to be an American.”
“There will not be an apology,” Dariano’s mother told NBC reporters outside the school. “Matthew is part Hispanic, OK? He’s an American. So, no, there will be no apology from any Dariano.”
Live Oak High School is 40 percent Latino. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the school hosted professional baile folklorico dancers. They waved Mexican flags and played traditional music from Mexico.
“It’s sad it’s come to this,” Fagerstrom told the paper. “But we stand behind their patriotic nature and the boys expressing their individuality.”
The teens wearing the American flags wrote and signed a statement in support of American patriotism. They said their First Amendment rights had been violated and that they felt officials had disrespected and discriminated against them.
“We were not going to start a fight,” Dariano said. “We wanted to show our pride.”
The district met with students and parents later in the day and told them the American T-shirts can stay. The Silicon Valley Mercury News reported protesters gathered outside the high school today demanding that Rodriguez be fired.
The blogosphere is on fire with hundreds of comments about the incident, including the following:
- I am so sick and tired of liberals, especially those running some of the school systems. To them, everything is relative, including morality. Hey left-wing apologists: This is America. Love it or leave it, you scumbag pansies.
- Apologize? Had Mexico been worth celebrating, you’d still be there. These kids need to sude the hell out of the school for infringing on their rights. Cinco de Mayo is not a celebration of Mexican-Americans. It’s a celebration of Mexicans. I hope these clowns figure out which of the two they are before the country opts to go Sheriff Joe on them.
- Shame, shame, shame. How dare this happen in America? Anyone who condoned this action or approved the concept should be fired immediately. These students did nothing wrong, and to single them out in their country while service members are engaged in a two-front war is, frankly, un-American, unpatriotic and stupid.
- Annicia, you and all the other America haters at your school, please leave my country. I don’t even care if you are a U.S. citizen. You don’t even know what this country is all about.
- As a veteran, I was prepared to give my life for my country and the flag because these colors never run. This is America. They need to sue that school system into the stone age.