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By LL News|Email the author|Oct 18,2013
In a case that pits First Amendment rights of young Americans to display pride in their country against the power of high school administrators to take reasonable measures to promote student safety, a federal appellate panel heard oral arguments Thursday about whether to revive a lawsuit brought by former students who wanted to wear T-shirts featuring the U.S. flag.
A federal district court nixed their suit last year over the May 2010 incident at a Northern California school. Former Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled that potential for `substantial disruption` on Cinco de Mayo justified a decision by administrators of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., to require the plaintiffs to turn their T-shirts inside-out or go home on that one day, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
However, at least one judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel suggested today that the approach was constitutionally lopsided, a subsequentMercury News article reports.
`If you have tolerance days, you have to endure the views of anti-tolerance,` Judge Sidney Thomas told a lawyer for the Morgan Hill Unified School District.
A history of strife between Hispanic and Anglo students on the May 5 holiday—which began with an unlikely Mexican victory in battle against the French more than 100 years ago and today commemorates pride in the Mexican heritage—led to the American flag T-shirt ban.
`This is not a case about the flag, or the First Amendment rights of adults in a public forum,` said the school district in a court filing. `This is a case about whether we allow school administrators, familiar with the circumstances in their schools, to take reasonable steps to protect student safety in the face of threats and a history of violence.`
Law professor Eugene Volokh of the University of California-Los Angeles said there is solid authority for the district`s position, although the plaintiffs` desire to display pride in the American flag is, of course, likely to elicit a sympathetic response.
`In a sense, it`s a heckler`s veto,` he said of school administrators` decision not to risk disruption of the learning environment by allowing the plaintiffs to wear their T-shirts.