Racial Tension Mounts At South Bay High School
Posted: 10:24 pm PDT May 5, 2010
Updated: 10:44 pm PDT May 6, 2010
MORGAN HILL, Calif. -- Tensions mounted at a Bay Area high school
Thursday, a day after five students whipped up emotions by wearing
t-shirts depicting red, white and blue American flags on Cinco de Mayo.
A group of 50-60 Latino students walked out of classes at Morgan Hill's
Live Oak High early Thursday, marching to city hall and rallying to show
their support for a school official.
That unidentified assistant principal had ordered the students who wore
t-shirts with American flags on Cinco de Mayo to either go home or turn
the shirts inside out.
Among the demonstrators was sophomore Justina Piedra.
.We could have ignored it, but the fact that they did it to us last year
-- see that is disrespect toward us,. she said of the students. .And they
want to do it again and plan it out, they plan it out. They think it.s
funny. It hurts us. We are just as equal as they are..
Fellow student Lizbeth Ruiz also said she felt disrespected.
.There is no right for them to be putting us down,. she said of the
t-shirt wearers. .All that proves that America isn.t what it should be..
Meanwhile, Superintendent Wesley Smith released a statement saying the
district does not prohibit or discourage students from wearing patriotic
"While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made
decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should
not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing," Smith
The case has prompted an outcry as news of the incident has spread across
the country. A high school student in Yorktown, Va., created a Facebook
page titled "I support the 5 students from Morgan Hill high school."
Kathleen Sullivan, a Morgan Hill Unified School District board trustee,
said Live Oak also experienced problems on Cinco de Mayo last year.
She said some students had complained to the principal and vice principal
that they had felt intimidated by students waving American flags.
In response to those complaints, school authorities had asked students not
to provoke other students by wearing or waving flags this year, Sullivan
"The district's position is that that is not in our policy," Sullivan
said. "But the underlying reason for it was student safety."
She did not know if the five students had returned to school, but said
they have not been suspended. Smith added that the district is
investigating the incident.
Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
at Santa Clara University, said the action taken by the school was
warranted if their objective was to maintain the security and safety of
the other students.
"Was there a danger of a fight between the students celebrating Cinco de
Mayo and the students wearing the American T-shirts? If there was a
threat, then their action was ethical," Hanson said.
"The decisions regarding student dress are always difficult for school
authorities and it is possible that any particular dress, including the
American flag, could under circumstances be threatening," Hanson said.
"But when the students' rights are at stake, the school authorities
clearly should try to find some way to protect those rights and at the
same time defuse the situation."