The Supreme Court has refused to review a case concerning California school officials banning students from wearing American flag t-shirts for fear of the garments being ‘disruptive’.
The Supreme court decision was taking behind closed doors Monday. No explanation was given as to why the case of Dariano vs. Morgan Hill Unified School District will not be taken further.
The case stems from an incident in 2010 when students were ordered to remove US flag t-shirts on the Mexican national day Cinco de Mayo. School officials cited concerns that such displays of patriotism would inflame racial tensions.
Four students were suspended and sent home, and a blanket ban was enacted, much to the chagrin of free speech proponents.
Those critics now say that the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand a Ninth Circuit court ruling restricting free speech in this case affirms a troubling precedent that displays of patriotism in America can be prohibited.
“When public school students can’t wear an American flag on a t-shirt because it might be disruptive, then free speech as we’ve known it is dead,” said John W. Whitehead, president of rights group The Rutherford Institute, which was involved in the original district court case.
“If the Supreme Court continues down the road to political correctness, then eventually anything we say will be treated as threatening as a loaded gun and deemed just as dangerous.” Whitehead added.
The Ninth Circuit court concluded that a “heckler’s veto” theory could be applied to the case, essentially allowing the government to restrict free speech to maintain order.
While the court acknowledged that other students wearing Mexican flag colors and symbols were within their right to do so, it simultaneously ruled that American flag apparel could be prohibited, despite the fact that no breakdown in order had occurred.
“It’s unjust, it’s discretionary, it’s politicized,” Robert Joseph Muise, the plaintiff’s lead counsel for the conservative American Freedom Law Center, told NBC Bay Area Monday morning. “The 9th circuit set a horrible precedent. Why? I don’t know and they won’t tell me.”