I have received a ton of e-mail asking me to follow up yesterday’s article about the suspension of students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California with another story of a student suspension in Houston, Texas. In the first instance, students were suspended for refusing to remove clothing with American-flag themes on Cinco de Mayo, an obvious violation of their civil rights and a ridiculous request regardless. In the Houston story, as reported by KTRH’s Michael Berry and linked at one point by Drudge, the circumstances are quite different — and somewhat misleading:
Yesterday, a listener’s son was offended that his school, Klein Collins High School, displayed the Mexican flag prominently. His mother called to complain, and the school wouldn’t return her call. The student took the sign down.
The school pitched a fit, reviewed the surveillance tapes, found the student, and suspended him for 3 days. AND he has to pay for the flag. In light of the SF story of students sent home for wearing the AMERICAN flag because it offended the Hispanic students, I thought you’d like to know about a story closer to home.
The problem with this report is that Berry used a picture with it that shows a Mexican flag flying above an upside-down American flag, but there’s no indication that’s what happened at this school. That picture comes from an incident several years ago (exactly as shown on the Boss Emeritus’ site in March 2006) and not from Klein Collins. Berry’s report only says that the school “displayed the Mexican flag prominently,” which could mean almost anything. Was it on a flagpole at all? Was it displayed on a wall in the cafeteria?
Without that incendiary picture, the reason for outrage becomes very muddled. There’s nothing so wrong with displaying a Mexican flag on a school campus (as long as it doesn’t replace the American flag) that it requires student intervention. Like it or not, students don’t make the rules at school, and the student in question had no business removing a school display without permission from the administration. One can question whether a three-day suspension was warranted, but it’s difficult to argue with the application of disciplinary action.
In contrast, the students at Live Oak High School were disciplined for wearing clothing with an American-flag theme on the basis of its supposed offense to those celebrating a minor holiday honoring a foreign country. It’s an outrageous action designed to punish personal political speech merely on the basis that it disagreed with the administration. The two don’t really have any equivalency, at least not with the details reported at KTRH.
Update: Berry has updated the post to show the actual display of the flag — hanging from a railing over a corridor. It wasn’t on a flagpole or flying over the American flag. There may be valid reasons to object to this display (as expressed by many commenters below), but the student shouldn’t have taken it down himself.