In prohibiting a pair of students from wearing patriotic pins emblazoned with an American flag and the words, “God Bless America,” a teacher misapplied the district-wide ban against “gang paraphernalia,” according to California’s Anaheim Union High School District.
Brad Dacus, attorney and president of the Pacific Justice Institute, based in Citrus Heights, Calif., said his organization was contacted Tuesday by the grandfather of two students who were told to remove the pins by a district teacher.
After contacting the school district and following up with a legal opinion letter, an attorney from the institute was assured the teacher had been acting outside the policies of the school district, Dacus said.
The district also promised to inform its entire faculty at an upcoming faculty meeting “as to the importance of respecting the rights of students to wear patriotic symbols,” said Dacus.
“I am very grateful for the Pacific Justice Institute and how quickly they resolved this matter,” said the grandfather, who wished to go unnamed so as not to draw attention to his grandsons. “Our goal was that my two grandsons not be severely punished for expressing their love of country.”
The grandfather said his grandsons were threatened with suspension if they wore the symbols again, but that was before PJI had contacted school officials, according to Dacus.
“We are very pleased with how quickly the school district responded to this situation,” Dacus said. “We hope other school districts learn the importance of making sure that the rights of students wishing to express their patriotism are not violated.”
Last week, the institute was successful in forcing officials at Mead High School in Spokane, Wash., to allow a student to include the phrase “In God We Trust” in some artwork that was put on public display.
In that case, a teacher had asked the student to remove the phrase in an attempt to comply with “the so-called ‘wall of separation’ between church and state,” the institute said in a published statement.
A spokesman for the Anaheim City School District told WND it had no policies against “patriotic pins” or buttons.