Public sounds off over American flag shirt controversy

May 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A crowded school board meeting took place in Morgan Hill on Tuesday night. That is where angry parents and students demanded action against administrators.

The trouble started on Cinco de Mayo when five high school students were told to either take off the American flag t-shirts they were wearing or go home.

About 200 people packed the auditorium since it was their first chance to speak to, and in some cases, yell at district leaders.

"It's always been Hispanics versus Caucasians. It's been like that in our history, we cannot sugarcoat this," said student Teresa Rita Corona.

Parents and students brought honesty, demands, and anger to the Morgan Hill Unified School board meeting.

"You guys made this segregated by stupidity and ignorance," said parent Teresa Casillas.

"I want to see the principal and vice principal fired or you will face legal action," said Gilroy resident Mark Zappa.

At live Oak High School on Cinco de Mayo five students wore t-shirts depicting American flags. The vice principal told the boys he worried about their safety so they could either change shirts or go home.

"We want an apology for our boys, disciplinary action to be taken to a certain extent, and we want to prevent the same thing from happening all over again," said one of the mothers of a student wearing an American flag t-shirt, Julie Fagerstrom.

The district insists wearing red, white and blue, is fine. However, the school board meeting wasn't about enacting new policy. It was about being heard for those on both sides of the issue.

"I personally am getting very, very tired of disrespect to that flag and what this nation actually stands for," said Morgan Hill resident Lavonne Atnit.

"I've seen such division and such strong emotion, such hatred and I really feel that a flag is a symbol," said Morgan Hill resident Mindy Bostick.

"It's more than a little kumbayah symbol!" said Zappa.

Emotion filled the room. Two police officers kept close watch, especially after a speaker called another person racist.

The board couldn't respond, the time was for public comment only, but the district's superintendent made a small statement to the media.

"They have a right to wear those shirts on school campus, on all of our campuses, they shouldn't have been asked to take them off," said Superintendent Wesley Smith.

The superintendent also said the investigation into how administrators handled everything on Cinco de Mayo is still on-going. It should be complete by June. After that, it'll be decided if any disciplinary action should be taken.


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