A group of students at a California high school basketball game were told to remove patriotic bandanas and stop chanting “USA, USA” because school administrators wanted to be sensitive to other spectators.
The incident occurred during a basketball last week between Camarillo High School and Rio Mesa High School in Ventura County.
A school administrator pulled aside four boys and told them to either remove their American flag bandanas or leave the game. The boys complied but returned to lead the crowd in a chant of “USA, USA.”
Both schools have a large Hispanic student population.
Student Austin Medeiros and the other boys were suspended for their actions—but the punishment was later lifted by school officials.
Still, students are upset over what happened and staged a protest at the school’s flagpole by wearing red, white and blue.
“We’ve done it always,” Medeiros told the Ventura County Star. “It’s something we do. It’s the same group of friends. We’re all very patriotic.”
But Gabe Soumakian, the superintendent of the Oxnard Union School District, told Fox News there were “racial overtones” to the chant—which you can watch at the bottom of the page.
“There was symbolism there with the bandana and the chant,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with being patriotic or unpatriotic,” Soumakian said. “it has to do with the fact that they are making a chant regarding that we are from the USA and you’re not. Whether that’s the implied intent, that’s the way it comes across.”
And while the students involved in the incident said they are very patriotic, the superintendent offered this word of caution:
“We have a very diverse student body in the district,” he said.
And while the punishments were lifted, he said the incident is far from over.
“As a superintendent I think we need to pursue this further,” he said. “We need to work with teachers and students and the community about the concept of cultural proficiency.”
He said cultural proficiency is “understanding how to work, live, be and understand the heritage and be respectful.”
“It’s more than just the tolerance of other ethnic or cultural groups,” he said.