Bound to taint prom: Gang violence, retaliation feared for five students who wore American flag apparel to school on Cinco de Mayo

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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It’s prom weekend for juniors and seniors at Live Oak High School, and police are concerned about possible retaliatory gang violence against four students who were were reprimanded by a principal for wearing American flag apparel to the Morgan Hill, Calif., school on Cinco de Mayo.

Dominic Mac, one of the students who donned the American flag attire Wednesday, said during an interview on Fox News Friday morning that he’s been threatened. “I was texted on my phone in class during the last period, for me, and someone texted me and said, ‘Hey, Hispanics are coming back to Live Oak, we’ll be there after school,’ stuff like that.”

Mac says he hasn’t been to school since the incident, but he plans to return Monday. He admitted he’s somewhat nervous. “A little bit,” he admitted. “But I know a lot of people are supporting me.”

Another student who wore a patriotic shirt to school that day, Austin Carvalho, said he’s amazed that he’s getting all this attention solely for wearing the American flag shirt he wears often, saying, “I like the shirt and never thought that I would be on national television wearing it.”

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The students described the situation this way: On Wednesday, Mac said, a few Mexican-Americans approached the students wearing American flag shirts and said “‘Why are you wearing the disrespectful stuff like that?’ nothing really serious, though.”

The principal told them to flip their shirts inside-out. “We refused and thought it would be disrespectful towards America,” said Carvalho.

“I have seen Mexican-Americans wearing their Mexican flags on Fourth of July, and they have the right to do that so I thought we should have the right to wear the American flag at Cinco de Mayo.”

The Daily Caller could not reach anyone at Live Oak High School by phone, and principal Nick Boden did not return an e-mail. But district superintendent Wesley Smith issued a statement Thursday saying, “The Morgan Hill Unified School District does not prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing.”

“The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate,” Smith said. “While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken.”

Fox News reported that a couple hundred Hispanic protesters took to the streets in response to the school board calling the school’s action wrong, and authorities fear the escalation of gang violence. A California paper, the Contra Costa Times, says the school’s junior-senior prom is set for Saturday.

“I’m kind of nervous about it,” Live Oak High School senior Marina Schlaefli told the paper. “I’d rather this whole thing had never happened. It’s making our school look bad, and it’s not a bad school.”

Extra officers have been sent to the school, Morgan Hill police department Sgt. Jerry Neumayer told The Daily Caller.  “We’re gonna try to be prepared as much as we can,” he said.

The department has heard rumors of possible protests and fights, but nothing specific.

While he said gangs in the city are not huge problem, “gang violence has increased over the last three years or so.” No arrests have been made in connection with the incident, and actions have been precautionary, he said. “All we’re doing is try to keep the peace.”

The town’s local paper, the Morgan Hill Times, appears to have been swamped with visitors because of the brouhaha, as their Web site was inaccessible Friday morning, likely crashed from all the traffic.

In the aftermath of the incident, while the school has backtracked from the principal’s actions since reported, several have attacked the students. “I think they should apologize cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day,” fellow student Annica Nunez said. “We don’t deserve to be get disrespected like that. We wouldn’t do that on Fourth of July.”

Film critic Roger Ebert also took to Twitter saying, “Kids who wear American flag T-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.”

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