Students Kicked Off Campus for Wearing American Flag Tees

Freedom of expression or cultural disrespect on Cinco de Mayo?

By George Kiriyama
|  Thursday, May 6, 2010  |  Updated 2:50 PM PDT
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A South Bay student is told wearing an American flag to school on a Mexican holiday is not appropriate.

A South Bay student is told wearing an American flag to school on a Mexican holiday is not appropriate.

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On any other day at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Daniel Galli and his four friends would not even be noticed for wearing T-shirts with the American flag. But Cinco de Mayo is not any typical day especially on a campus with a large Mexican American student population.

Galli says he and his friends were sitting at a table during brunch break when the vice principal asked two of the boys to remove American flag bandannas that they wearing on their heads and for the others to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out. When they refused, the boys were ordered to go to the principal's office.

"They said we could wear it on any other day," Daniel Galli said, "but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it's supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it today."

The boys said the administrators called their T-shirts "incendiary" that would lead to fights on campus.

"They said if we tried to go back to class with our shirts not taken off, they said it was defiance and we would get suspended," Dominic Maciel, Galli's friend, said.

The boys really had no choice, and went home to avoid suspension. They say they're angry they were not allowed to express their American pride. Their parents are just as upset, calling what happened to their children, "total nonsense."

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous," Julie Fagerstrom, Maciel's mom, said. "All they were doing was displaying their patriotic nature. They're expressing their individuality."

But to many Mexican-American students at Live Oak, this was a big deal. They say they were offended by the five boys and others for wearing American colors on a Mexican holiday.

"I think they should apologize cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day," Annicia Nunez, a Live Oak High student, said. "We don't deserve to be get disrespected like that. We wouldn't do that on Fourth of July."

As for an apology, the boys and their families say, 'fat chance.'

"I'm not going to apologize. I did nothing wrong," Galli said. "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."

The five boys and their families met with a Morgan Hill Unified School District official Wednesday night. The district and the school do not see eye-to-eye on the incident and released the following statement:

The district does not concur with the Live Oak High School administration's interpretation of either board or district policy related to these actions.

The boys will not be suspended and were allowed to return to school Thursday. We spotted one of them when he got to campus -- and, yes, he was sporting an American flag T-shirt.

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