FREE SPEECH -- The parents of three of the four boys who were sent home from Live Oak High School for wearing shirts depicting the American Flag on Cinco de Mayo filed a lawsuit today against the Morgan Hill Unified School District, Principal Nick Boden and Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez for violating their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, reports Lindsay Bryant in the Morgan Hill Times.
"The families are hoping to have their Constitutional rights vindicated," their attorney William J. Becker Jr. said Wednesday by phone.
The lawsuit, Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, is a symbolic suit and is not seeking monetary damages or an apology. It's whether or not Live Oak or any other school in the United States recognizes their duty to not infringe on students' First Amendment rights, Becker said.
John and Dianna Dariano, parents of Matt Dariano, Kurt and Julie Ann Fagerstrom, parents of Dominic Maciel, and Kendall and Joy Jones on behalf of Daniel Galli were named as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They are represented by the Becker Law Firm in Los Angeles and the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Thomas More Law Center is also litigating a similar case of discrimination on behalf of a Merced sixth-grade girl who was ordered by school officials to remover her pro-life T-shirt.
The four students were told by Boden and Rodriguez they could wear their American flag T-shirts on any other day other than Cinco de Mayo. Live Oak maintains it was attempting to quell any violence among Hispanic students and on May 5, Rodriguez called the boys' dress "incendiary."
Other students that day wore red, white and green in favor of their pride for the Mexican holiday, which marks the Mexican army's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.
The incident pushed Live Oak and Morgan Hill into the national media spotlight. On May 6, about 200 mostly Hispanic teens marched through Morgan Hill as a sign of protest; on May 7, the school district issued an apology and Superintendent Wes Smith said he did not agree with the decision made; on May 8, more than 100 Tea Party members rallied in downtown to support the four students who also attended; and on May 11, several hundred locals and many media outlets covered the school board meeting that addressed the May 5 event.
The plaintiffs also seek compensation for their attorney's fees and expenses and the cost of litigation from MHUSD.