Freedom of expression or cultural disprespect? | Teen Ink

Freedom of expression or cultural disprespect?

May 21, 2010
By N.Sweet GOLD, Roslyn Heights, New York
N.Sweet GOLD, Roslyn Heights, New York
10 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes to you, to make each day count." -- Jack Dawson, Titanic

Freedom of expression or cultural disrespect? Five boys were sent home from Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California for wearing American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. While the boys were at lunch, an administrator approached them and asked the boys to turn their t-shirts inside out, calling the shirts “incendiary.” When the boys refused, they were threatened by the principal with suspension. The boys, having no choice, left the school’s campus angry and shocked that they got into trouble for something they wore. The parents of the boys are just as upset, saying that what the school did is ridiculous.

When news of the situation broke, it sparked a large amount of controversy across America. At hearing the story for the first time, RHS students and teachers alike were not sure how to react. Penny, a freshman of RHS, said that she was quite surprised when she heard the story.
“After all,” she said, “this is not something you hear about everyday. I didn’t even know that schools were permitted to do such a thing.”
However, Xavier , another freshman declares that he felt it was fair of the teachers to ask the students to turn their t-shirts inside out or go home. “They were, in fact, contradicting people’s heritage.”

America is debating whether the school made the right decision by asking the boys to change, thinking that it would prevent violence. It is another issue that the boys were threatened with suspension for wearing what they wore. Both Penny and Xavier feel that the school did make the right decision by asking the students to change. However, they feel that the school was not right in threatening suspension of the students. Mr. T-gov, an English teacher, thinks that threatening suspension was somewhat extreme. “Nothing had happened yet so I do not agree with this action. It is not inappropriate to wear your nation’s colors on any day.”

The boys and their parents are pressing charges against the school, declaring that this act violated freedom of expression. penny and xavier feel that this act certainly did violate freedom of expression in the United States. “No one should be required to wear something or celebrate a holiday.” says penny.
However, Mr. T-gov has a very different opinion. “You don’t really have the right to freedom of expression on school grounds. You are still a minor and when you enter school, teachers become your legal guardians. As a result, they can legally tell you what to do in order to ensure your safety.”
Teachers may feel differently about this issue because they have experienced situations such as the one in California themselves. It is not uncommon for teachers to ask their students to change or turn something inside out due to an explicit phrase or an inappropriate piece of clothing. Mr. T-gov describes two situations in which he asked a student to change. “One student was simply not wearing enough, so I told them to put on another layer because what they were wearing was inappropriate for the classroom. The student obeyed. Another time, I had a child who was wearing an explicit phrase on his shirt. I asked him to go to the bathroom and turn the shirt inside out. He did so without a problem. In this situation, though, I don’t see how the American flag is inappropriate or explicit in any way.”

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