Of all the anti-American sentiment imposed on students in today’s public school system, few incidents evoked more righteous indignation than when a California high school banned the display of patriotic T-shirts.

When a number of teens showed up wearing shirts bearing an image of the American flag, administrators at Live Oak High School instructed them to turn their clothes inside-out to avoid potential violence by Latino students. In the nearly four years since that May 5, 2010 incident, the students have fought valiantly – with the help of the American Freedom Law Center – in an effort to protect the rights of American students to express their patriotism.

The case finally reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, and the decision was a disturbing indictment of America’s current societal dysfunction.

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In generations past, students were required to pledge their allegiance to this nation, resulting in a culture of positive self-identity, pride, and the belief in American exceptionalism. The unanimous ruling of these appeals judges, however, is that administrators should be allowed to prevent patriotic displays by citizens based on the possibility that non-citizens would attack them because of it.

Instead of holding any America-hating students responsible for potential actions, Judge. M. Margaret McKeown spoke for the three-judge panel in declaring it “reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real.”

Naturally, those who happen to like this nation and promote the patriotism of the next generation were outraged over the ruling. As attorney William Becker said, this activist court “upheld the rights of Mexican students celebrating a holiday of another country over U.S. students proudly supporting this country.”

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He said the cause is not yet lost, however, expressing his intention to present the case to a larger panel and, if necessary, make an appeal at the Supreme Court level.

Considering the trashy outfits some of today’s youth wear to school, it is important that administrators have some authority over what is appropriate attire. It is a sad commentary indeed, however, that the highest court in the land might be called on to determine whether the most recognizable symbol of America will be ruled off-limits in the nation’s schools.

–B. Christopher Agee

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Photo Credit: Lipton sale (Creative Commons)