Federal appeals court: Schools can ban students from wearing American-flag t-shirts in order to prevent violence

posted at 4:41 pm on February 27, 2014 by Allahpundit

How would wearing an American flag t-shirt possibly incite violence in an American high school? From the opinion:

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The court’s ruling: School administrators can force you to remove your American-flag tee if the alternative is a classmate punching you in the face. That’s because, per the Supreme Court, students don’t have the same free speech rights at school that adults do on other public grounds. At school, the name of the game is order and instruction; you’re entitled to free expression to the extent you don’t interfere with those goals, but once you do, the school’s entitled to limit your expression accordingly.

In other words, a bully can get the principal’s office to silence you by promising to beat your ass if they don’t.

This is, as Eugene Volokh notes, a classic “heckler’s veto” in that it rewards a violent actor by suppressing the speech that’s irritated him instead of punishing him for being violent. What sort of incentives does that create? If the answer’s not obvious, here’s a snippet from the equal-protection section of the opinion that made my eyes pop. The students who had to take off their stars-and-stripes shirts wanted to know why students wearing shirts with Mexican-flag colors weren’t also asked to take off their shirts. Simple, says the court: No one was threatening to beat them up.

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If you want to make your classmate shut up, you need to credibly threaten violence. That’s how “free speech” works in the nation’s schools. Take a lesson, America.

Exit question via my pal Karl: Given that these sorts of racial tensions have recurred during more than one of the school’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations, why didn’t they simply stop celebrating the holiday? That’s not optimal either — if you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, in theory you can also celebrate Cinco de Mayo — but given that even the court seems to accept that the threats here are one-sided, it’d at least have the virtue of punishing the guilty parties.


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Gave my son my truck and of course he drove it to school. He put a magnet flag (5″ by 3″) on the tail gate. On the back window (driver’s side) I had an old “GOT SIG” sticker. Able to keep the flag but a no go on the “GOT SIG” apeaker.

HonestLib on February 28, 2014 at 8:31 AM

Hide all American flags May 1, 5. Have the red flag with the sickle and hammer on May 1 and the Mexican flag on May 5.

Welcome to Amerika

TerryW on February 28, 2014 at 8:46 AM

HonestLib on February 28, 2014 at 8:31 AM

The more I read of your posts, the more I wonder why you consider yourself a Lib.

You ain’t like most other Libs I know . . .

BigAlSouth on February 28, 2014 at 8:47 AM

The more I read of your posts, the more I wonder why you consider yourself a Lib.

You ain’t like most other Libs I know . . .

BigAlSouth on February 28, 2014 at 8:47 AM

old style liberal and not a progressive hippie who aged out of a meme maybe?

dmacleo on February 28, 2014 at 9:05 AM

the key is HONESTlib, obviously not a new school lib.

billhedrick on February 28, 2014 at 10:08 AM

The Southwest was seized from Mexico illegally and all you White skinned European invaders should be considered the Illegal aliens in this situation!!!

Viva Mexifornia!

Viva Tejas!

Viva the new glory of Aztlan!!!!!

PappyD61 on February 28, 2014 at 8:14 AM

Since I live in Chicago, an area explored by the French, and I can’t order a cup of coffee in a downtown Chicago Mickey D’s with my Midwest Standard accent and be understood by the Spanish-speaking clerk, shouldn’t all of these invaders from the south leave so that the French can retake the area? Seems to me that’s the quoted argument.

polarglen on February 28, 2014 at 10:11 AM

If the Principal can not ensure the safety of the students within his school, if he can not prevent any 1 group from attacking another groups based on bias/descrimination then that Principal should be FIRED.

If someone is threatened bt a thug you don’t tell the one threatened that they have to hide…you warn the thug that if they do anything they will be severely puished. In this case you tell students if you touch any other student, if you instigate any violence, you will be expelled…and possibly arrested/prosecuted depending on the altercation.

This is America and banning any American from flying the American flag or wearing a shirt with the American Flag on it is WRONG! America is supposed to be a ‘Melting Pot’, not a place where outsiders can come and then dictate to Americans what they can and can’t do!

Also, Cinco De Mayo’s origination is remembering 1 battle in Mexico…that was lost, by the way…I would bet that those who have a problem with the American flag being worn of this day have no idea about it’s origin. For most now, Cinco De Mayo is a DRINKING holiday, an excuse to ‘celebrate’ something.

Finally, if the American flag – the sight of the American flag offends you, especially to the point where you engage in violence against the one displaying/wearing the American flag….GET THE F# OUT OF THIS COUNTRY! I’ll buy you a bus ticket!

easyt65 on February 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

PappyD61 on February 28, 2014 at 8:14 AM
“The Southwest was seized from Mexico illegally and all you White skinned European invaders should be considered the Illegal aliens in this situation!!!”

Nevermind how racist your comment may be, By YOUR comment above…

The Native American people were here in America before the migration of the Spanish/Mexican people; therefore, you Mexican-spanich descendants ‘stole’ our land, and we should have the right to drive your @$$e$ off of our land and back down into Mexico where you belong before we drive the ‘white skinned Europeans’ back to Europe’?!

Native Americans fought ‘Illegal Immigration’ long before YOU and your people EVER did…(and you can see how that worked out for us)…so, you should STILL be Considered ‘Ilegal Immigrants’!

By your comment, Blacks used to be in shackles, slaves to those who owned them…and therefore since that WAS the case we should go back to that time.

Viva Mexifornia!

Viva Tejas!

Viva the new glory of Aztlan!!!!!

How about:
“Viva El Criminal”
“Viva El Moocher”
(In your case – ‘white skinned Europeans’) “Viva el RACIST”

America is supposed to be a ‘melting pot’ but you remind me of the 1st ‘Illeagl March’ held a few years ago because Illegals wanted Americans to know how much we ‘need them’…in that march cameras showed Illegals holding signs that read things like “We don’t want to be citizens – we’re here for your money”, “We don’t want to be citizens – we want Texas back”, “F* America. vive el Mexico”….

More intelligen Latinos saw that, too, and were worried about the backlash that might follow…so they held a 2nd march & told people to carry other signs…this time the signs read ‘sweet’ pro-American slogans. LOL…too late – they exposed exactly who / what they are….parasites breaking the law and here just for themselves, not here to become part of and to help the United States.

And ‘Illegals’ want me to bend over backwards to give them more rights/benefits/citizenship? No thank you…go away! We have a legal process to become a citizen, and millions of people from other countries have done it and are doing it the right way. Sorry you are impatient & think you are too special to follow our laws, but that isn’t the case. Coming here without engaging in that process just makes you a CRIMINAL, not ‘special’.

easyt65 on February 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Stupid decision*, but hey, making life easier for the staff is naturally far more important than, you know, freedom of speech or common sense.

* Am I the only one thinking that a proper school uniform would help a lot here?

Teleros on February 28, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Open the border wide…and just hand over the keys. “Our” courts have given the country away…

Anyone wanna help build three sailing ships? ‘Cause it seems as if we need to do this all over again…and try to get it right this time!

TKPedersen42 on February 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM

It’s official, Monday, May the 5th is national….

Wear-Your-American-Flag-T-Shirt-to-School Day.

lonestarleeroy on February 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM

What are you talking about? Did you even read the question that I quoted? I was asked about the “other students” in this case. The ones “in an American school wearing foreign flag based apparel in celebration of another country’s national holiday”.

They supposedly threatened violence against the students wearing american flagged t-shirts. Threats of violence aren’t protected speech.

Why would I have been using sarcasm?

blink on February 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Ya – that was my question – and it was intended as somewhat rhetorical – but I had no problem with your response.
My question though was really aimed not so much at the threats of violence by the Mexican kids, but at the point that it’s apparently ok for kids, at least some of whom are likely illegal non-citzens in the US, in an American school, to wear shirts with a Mexican flag in celebration of a Mexican holiday – and that’s ok. But American kids must not be allowed to wear anything with an American flag on it, in an American school, just because it happens to be a Mexican holiday.
Just somethin’ wrong with that….

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 1:22 PM

So…how about ‘USA’ shirts, then?

James on February 28, 2014 at 1:38 PM

One more step in removing the flag from the poles fronting the establishment. Next is allowing the display of the Hammer and Sickle or other symbols f repression.

MSGTAS on February 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Kinda on topic, but also not directly related. Appeasement is a tricky wicket to use. It can work in the short term, but if you end up appeasing bad behavior, it has been my experience that you get more bad behavior. Thus, I try to address the bad behavior directly instead of coming up with an “up is down “ draconian rule. Eventually, you will have to deal the bad behavior/problem anyway. Hard part is who gets to decide what behavior is bad no matter whom is doing it or what group they belong to.

Problems like this are why educators love zero tolerance policy. They can hide behind the law and not honestly address the real issue. Just my thoughts and I don’t see this as a right vs. left issue, though folks will make it one.

HonestLib on February 28, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Nothing has changed since 2006:

http://www.jmisys.com/immigrationmarches/#Hate

fred5678 on February 28, 2014 at 2:49 PM

It is an insult to me that I would ever think that the AMERICAN flag would incite violence. It is appalling. Where did these idiot judges come from?

karlinsync on February 28, 2014 at 3:17 PM

blink on February 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Yup – nailed it.

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 3:24 PM

blink on February 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM

.
Yup – nailed it.

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 3:24 PM

.
D I T T O S ! . . . . . . . . .

listens2glenn on February 28, 2014 at 6:59 PM

What are you talking about? Did you even read the question that I quoted? I was asked about the “other students” in this case. The ones “in an American school wearing foreign flag based apparel in celebration of another country’s national holiday”.

They supposedly threatened violence against the students wearing american flagged t-shirts. Threats of violence aren’t protected speech.

Why would I have been using sarcasm?

blink on February 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

.
Ya – that was my question – and it was intended as somewhat rhetorical – but I had no problem with your response.

dentarthurdent on February 28, 2014 at 1:22 PM

.
My mistake, as well.

listens2glenn on February 28, 2014 at 3:31 AM

listens2glenn on February 28, 2014 at 7:31 PM

Problems like this are why educators love zero tolerance policy. They can hide behind the law and not honestly address the real issue. Just my thoughts and I don’t see this as a right vs. left issue, though folks will make it one.

HonestLib on February 28, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Exactly so.
It looks like a right vs left issue because, at the moment, the un-tolerated behavior generally has a rightward slant (formerly, eg. in the sixties, left-leaning behavior was no-go).
Mostly it is a result of the frivolous harassment suits brought by partisans on both sides, compounded by weak-kneed and thin-skinned administrators.

AesopFan on February 28, 2014 at 11:43 PM

Kinda on topic, but also not directly related. Appeasement is a tricky wicket to use. It can work in the short term, but if you end up appeasing bad behavior, it has been my experience that you get more bad behavior.

HonestLib on February 28, 2014 at 2:14 PM

I think Rudyard Kipling covered it.

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

gekkobear on February 28, 2014 at 11:58 PM

While I hate the idea of a heckler’s veto, from a purely legal standpoint, I don’t see how this is any different from rules banning gang colors.

Mahna Mahna on February 27, 2014 at 9:08 PM

Because the ban was only against one of the “gangs”, not all of them.

The students who had to take off their stars-and-stripes shirts wanted to know why students wearing shirts with Mexican-flag colors weren’t also asked to take off their shirts. Simple, says the court: No one was threatening to beat them up.

AesopFan on March 1, 2014 at 12:20 AM

gekkobear on February 28, 2014 at 11:58 PM

Kipling has covered almost everything we see today, at one time or another.
See especially “The Gods of the Copy-book Headings” — although the number of people who know what it is he refers to is decreasing exponentially.

AesopFan on March 1, 2014 at 12:21 AM

I wonder what other of my rights could be curtailed because of the POTENTIAL actions of others.
I mean, would I have the right to due process if it might make other people commit violence?

JakeRightThought on March 1, 2014 at 11:19 AM

PappyD – Last time I checked a map, Spain was in Europe.

Actually, Spain did a lot of damage to Latin America. They forced their language on people; they forced the estate mindset on people when they took the lands; the Spanish murdered a lot of natives; their descendants still control an inordinate amount of property and have no system for many of the descendants of natives to move up the socio-economic chain.

I think you better study some real history b/4 accusing others of anything

MN J on March 1, 2014 at 10:03 PM

Nice cast, PappyD, looks like you hooked a couple.

S. D. on March 2, 2014 at 11:45 AM

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