Mesa—A high school student expelled after trying to raise a Mexican flag on campus and getting in a shoving match with other students wants to return to school.
Adam Garcia was arrested, jailed for a night, placed under house arrest for a month and expelled from Apache Junction High School in the wake of the March incident, which happened at the height of this year’s marches and protests over immigration.
Students in a Navy junior ROTC program intervened as Garcia tried to raise the flag early that day, taking it down. When he tried to raise it a second time, one boy grabbed the flag and set it afire.
Police said a shoving match ensued, and both boys were arrested. The ROTC student was placed under a 6 p.m. curfew until his court date, while Garcia was placed under house arrest until his. Both were eventually placed on probation. The other boy, who is white, returned to school. Officials said federal laws prevent them from saying if he was expelled.
“They’re racist,” Garcia said. “That other kid, he got out free with nothing on him.”
Garcia, 17, acknowledges he was previously suspended, and court records show an arrest for disorderly conduct.
Garcia said he was trying to make a point, not cause a fight, when he raised the flag. He said the school was had simmering racial tensions.
“Everyone keeps on complaining about Mexicans coming here,” Garcia said. “I was born in the United States. I wanted to put up the flag to show everyone that no matter where we’re from, we should respect everyone.”
Flying another nation’s flag isn’t illegal, said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. The issue is whether the act caused a dangerous situation and the fairness of any discipline imposed.
“What we saw a lot of times when we had the immigration march walkouts, for example, was that some students were given harsher penalties because they walked out for the immigration debate than they would have been given if they had just walked out on a different day,” she said.
Garcia could enroll in a charter school or in another district. But he said his lack of transportation means he needs to attend classes within walking distance of his home. He also said he wants to return to his old school to prove he did nothing wrong.