- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A top U.S. court has refused to reconsider its ruling that let a school ban American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo, despite calls from parents and lawmakers that the decision violated students’ free-speech rights.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which takes cases in the farthest west states – declined to rehear a case on which a 3-member panel ruled in February, essentially siding with the school and giving parents little choice but to petition the Supreme Court for action.

The controversy centered around Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., where students wearing shirts with the American flag were told to turn them inside out or take them off on the Mexican-culture holiday in 2010.

The school cited a history of racial tension and gang violence as the reason, including a fight over a U.S. flag during the previous year’s Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates an 1862 Mexican military victory over the French but is little noticed in most of Mexico itself.

But parents of the children and their supporters said the move violated the students’ rights and essentially gave hostile third parties control over their speech — a position known in legal circles as a “heckler’s veto.”

In February, a three judge panel decided that the school was justified in its move as it was only trying to prevent violence.

“Both the specific events of May 5, 2010, and the pattern of which those events were a part made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real,” the court said in its initial ruling.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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