A federal appeals court will not reconsider a unanimous February ruling upholding the actions of a principal in a Northern California high school who ordered students wearing American flag shirts inside out during a 2010 Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Live Oak High School in the San Jose suburb of Morgan Hill had a prior history of problems between white and Latino students.
Parents and a few lawmakers had argued that the actions violated the students’ Constitutional right to free speech.
In the original ruling, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that past problems at the school gave officials sufficient and justifiable reasons for the order. In its opinion, the court said that schools in general have wide latitude in curbing certain civil rights to ensure campus safety.
On Wednesday, the Circuit Court of Appeals announced that a majority of its 29 judges had voted against rehearing the case.
In 2009, a group of Mexican-American students waved a Mexican flag around the Live Oak campus.
Some non-Hispanic students then raised the American flag on a tree, and the two groups exchanged profanity-laced threats.
The next year, after the principal issued the order for students wearing Stars and Stripes shirts to turn them inside-out or go home with an excused absence, the incident garnered national attention as many expressed outrage that students were barred from wearing patriotic clothing.
Three children and their parents sued the school district with the assistance of the American Freedom Law Center and other conservative legal organizations.
William Becker, a lawyer representing the students called Wednesday’s decision “outrageous” and said he’d likely take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“(We) will not allow the politically correct judiciary to insult our flag,” he wrote in his blog.
In February, a three-judge panel ruled that it was not the court’s place to second-guess the school’s anti-violence efforts.
"The past events "made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real," Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel.
But, in his blog, Becker said wearing an American flag to school is a symbol of patriotism, not aggression.
“The American flag is not a symbol of racism or division,” Becker said. “It is the symbol of freedom and unity. Americans have fought and died to protect that flag, and now we are told to conceal it so we don’t offend Mexican aliens, some of whom entered this country illegally.”
Cinco de Mayo marks the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when Mexican troops defeated a French army of Napoleon III. In many ways, it is more of a holiday in the U.S. than in Mexico, a celebration of Latino heritage with parades and revelry in many major cities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.