Schools ban flags as immigration debate gets tense
April 4, 2006
Anglos, Latinos in confrontations in Colo., Ariz., Calif.
By Tom Kenworthy
DENVER - Several schools in Colorado, Arizona and California recently banned
the display of national flags and the wearing of clothing with patriotic
symbols as the divisive national debate over immigration has brought angry
confrontations between Latino and Anglo students.
The bans have prompted protests by parents, stirred local debates over free
speech and its limits, and caught the attention of civil liberties
In Westminster, Colo., tensions between middle school students wearing
camouflage clothing to show support for troops in Iraq and others wearing
bandanas patterned after the Mexican flag triggered an order amending the
school's dress code.
"Some clothing worn by some of our students has created a tense and
sometimes hostile environment in our school over the past few days," Shaw
Heights Middle School Principal Myla Shepherd wrote in a letter to parents.
She banned "clothing that makes a political statement," camouflage clothes
and "banners, flags, bandanas of all types" at the suburban Denver school.
The dress code "is temporary and will be continually evaluated," said Deb
Haviland, spokeswoman for the Adams County school district, which includes
In Longmont, Colo., about 25 miles north of Denver, the principal of Skyline
High School last week banned temporarily the display of Mexican and U.S.
flags by students. Principal Tom Stumpf said some students used the U.S.
flag to express hostility to Hispanic students by waving it in their faces.
Longmont schools are on spring break this week, and Stumpf did not respond
to messages left at the school.
In Apache Junction, Ariz., the superintendent banned the display of flags on
clothing following a dispute between students at Apache Junction High School
over flying the U.S. and Mexican flags from a school flagpole. Within hours
of issuing the ban on Friday, he relented after protests by parents.
"There's a lot of tension with the immigration issue going on, but this
transcends that issue," said Mike Burk, who protested the short-lived ban at
the school attended by one of his sons. "You don't handle it by banning the
Carol Shepherd, spokeswoman for the Apache Junction schools, said, "After
listening to the community and the students, (Superintendent Greg Wyman)
reviewed the situation and decided to revise the ruling and allow flags to
be worn with the caveat that . anyone using them to incite other students
would be subject to discipline."
In Oceanside, Calif., superintendent Kenneth Noonan closed middle and high
schools last Thursday following a walkout by 650 students over immigration
legislation in Congress. In a letter to parents, he barred students from
wearing "items that could be disruptive" and banned flags, placards and
signs on school grounds.
"It's a temporary ban," said Oceanside schools spokeswoman Laura Chalkley.
Kevin Keenan, head of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego, said
in a statement posted on the group's website that school officials should
"insure protection for those activities protected by the First Amendment."