Another California school has charged a student wearing a U.S. flag-themed T-shirt with a dress-code violation because of its presumed effect on Hispanics — Hispanic gang members to be exact.
Having her 12-year-old son “dress coded” was the last thing Lori Carpenter expected when she purchased a back-to-school T-shirt at the local Kohl’s for her son Dustin. She liked the American flag design and the blue color, she told Sacramento Fox affiliate KTXL.
The shirt featured the outline of the California flag filled with the stars-and-stripes pattern of the U.S. banner. Patriotic, local, historic — what could go wrong?
Plenty, Carpenter learned, when Dustin came home from school last week with the shirt turned inside out. And when she contacted officials at Yuba Gardens Intermediate School in Olivehurst to learn why, she was initiated into the strange world of gang iconography.
“Our local gang task force, they identify colors, they identify designs, they identify all of the things that we should be aware of,” assistant superintendent at Marysville Joint Unified School District, Ramiro Carreon told KTXL.
WND reported another school district had problems with students wearing an American flag shirt. In 2010, five students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California, were sent home for wearing U.S.-themed shirts on Cinco de Mayo, accused of being “incendiary.” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that school officials’ concerns that the American flag shirts would inflame the passions of Latino students outweighed the students’ right to free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the students’ appeal in 2015.
In Dustin’s case, it was the shirt’s red star that raised the red flag with administrators. In historic context, it represents the Lone Star flag flown above Monterey, California, in 1836 during Juan Alvarado’s revolt against the Mexican government. But it has since been appropriated by the Norteño criminal street gang, Ben Martin, a detective with the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department gang unit, told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.
Additionally, red is the Norteños’ color, with the five points of the star representing “1+4,” and the 14th letter of the alphabet is “N.”
Further, the number 31 appears on the shirt’s red star, representing California being the 31st state in the Union. But in gang lingo, 31 is the inverse of 13, which is used by the Sureño gang, the Norteños’ biggest rival.
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“I wouldn’t say that (California’s bear flag) is necessarily gang attire, itself, but if you put it with one or two elements it could become gang attire,” Martin said.
“That design has been associated with gangs in the past, and we cannot just turn a blind eye to that,” the district’s Carreon concurred.
“I would say (schools) are put in a difficult position,” said Mike Bullard, a gang detective with the Yuba City Police Department and agent with the Yuba-Sutter Gang Task Force. “They have to take clothing on face value, and it would be hard to tell one kid he couldn’t wear it and another that he could.”
“It’s about keeping the students safe and the school safe, so that’s why it’s in the dress code policy, specifically as a five-point star,” said Marysville Joint Unified School District Superintendent Gay Todd.
“Gang members are very good at taking things that are absolutely honorable and making them into something that is a problem,” Todd said.
That’s not sitting well with Dustin’s mom.
“He’s an honor roll student, he’s in California Junior Scholastic Federation and he gets A’s,” Carpenter said. “He’s a star student but he can’t wear a star.
“I understand that they have a job to do to keep everybody safe. But I think that it’s going way too far.”
In the Morgan Hill case, sophomore Matt Dariano said school officials informed him and other students wearing flag shirts on Cinco de Mayo that “we were starting a fight, we were fuel to the fire.”
“They said we could wear it on any other day,” Daniel Galli told NBC News. “But today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it’s supposed to be their holiday so we are not allowed to wear it today.”