California student forced to remove American flag shirt deemed 'gang related'

A 12-year-old California honors student violated his school's dress code for wearing a patriotic T-shirt administrators claim is "gang related," Fox 40 reported Tuesday.

Dustin Cole, a student at Yuba Gardens Intermediate school in Olivehurst, arrived home last week wearing the T-shirt his mom had bought him inside out, according to the station.

Lori Carpenter said she questioned her son, who told her he received a dress code violation for wearing the shirt, which Carpenter recently bought at Kohl's. She said she liked the shirt's American flag design and blue color for her son.

"He said he was 'dress coded' at school because the stars were gang related," Carpenter told Fox 40.

The shirt includes a red star in the corner with the number 31, and "California" is printed underneath the American flag design, which appears in the shape of a bear. California was admitted as the 31st state in 1850.

A school official, however, said the red star on the shirt blurs the line between free speech and safety, Fox 40 reported. The star, the school said, is often associated with the Norteno gang.

"Our local gang task force, they identify colors, they identify designs, they identify all of the things that we should be aware of," Ramiro Carreon, assistant superintendent at Marysville Joint Unified School District, told the station.

"That design has been associated with gangs in the past, and we cannot just turn a blind eye to that," Carreon said.

Carpenter said she thinks the school went "too far" in banning the mass-produced T-shirt.

"I mean, they are trying to keep everybody safe. I understand. But it feels like it is a little too far. Especially when it is a patriotic shirt," she said.

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