Racial Tension Mounts at South Bay High School

KTVU-TV (Oakland), May 6, 2010

Tensions mounted at a Bay Area high school Thursday, a day after five students whipped up emotions by wearing t-shirts depicting red, white and blue American flags on Cinco de Mayo.

A group of 50-60 Latino students walked out of classes at Morgan Hill’s Live Oak High early Thursday, marching to city hall and rallying to show their support for a school official.

That unidentified assistant principal had ordered the students who wore t-shirts with American flags on Cinco de Mayo to either go home or turn the shirts inside out.

“We knew it was Cinco de Mayo. But we just came to show our flag,” said student Dominic Maciel, one of the flag wearing students. “We didn’t mean anything by it. We didn’t want to start anything. Nothing like that.”

Four of the five students who wore American flags or patriotic colors on campus later attended a meeting with the superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District Wednesday night.

They were facing unexcused absences because they chose to go home early rather than take off what they were wearing.

“They said we had to wear our t-shirts inside out and then we could go back to class and we said no,” said student Anthony Caravalho. “It would be disrespectful to the flag by hiding it.”

Daniel Galli, another student who was reprimanded for wearing a US flag, described what he was told by school administration.

“He said ‘If you wear it on any other day, it’s fine; but just because it’s today you can’t wear it,'” Galli said. “His exact words.”

Galli said he was told it was inappropriate to wear the shirt because “it’s supposed to be a Mexican Day and we were supposed to honor them.”

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“We’re not mad that they wore their stuff,” said student Galli. “But we’re mad that we were asked to change our stuff, but they could still wear their stuff.”

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Some Mexican-American students KTVU spoke with said they thought wearing red, white and blue on Cinco de Mayo was disrespectful.

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