In Del Rio, California, 13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He does this, he says, to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his grandfather. He’s been flying the flag on his bike for two months, but at the beginning of the week of Veteran’s Day was told by a school official at Denair Middle School that some students had been complaining about the flag and it was no longer allowed on school property.
Denair Unified School District Superintendent Edward Parraz explained, “[The] First Amendment is important. We want the kids to respect it, understand it and with that comes responsibility.” Noting that racial tensions had disrupted the school last year after the Cinco de Mayo holiday, Parraz said, “Our Hispanic kids will bring their Mexican flags and they’ll display it, and then of course the kids would do the American flag situation, and it does cause kind of a racial tension, which we don’t really want. We want them to appreciate their cultures.”
For Cody’s part, he’s folding his flag—the correct way—and storing it until he’s off school grounds. His family isn’t suing, or anything like that, but they think it is strange that the school picked Veterans week to make an issue about the flag. “No action should be taken. We don’t want any repercussion,” said Cody’s father. “We just want Cody to be proud of what he’s doing.”
I would like to hear a defense of the school’s interference with a patriotic student’s decision to respectfully fly an American flag from his own bicycle on Veteran’s Day, or any other day. Superintendent Parraz’s comments are no defense, just more evidence of the incompetence, warped priorities and cowardice of far too many public school administrators. A student who “complains” about the flag of his country—I don’t care what his heritage is—being displayed by an American citizen should be told the following:
- You have no valid complaint.
- Here is a U.S. history book. Read it. Your report is due in two weeks.
- Here is a video of the film, “The Longest Day.” Watch it. You have a report on that due in three weeks.
- Here is a copy of the Gettysberg Address. Memorize it. You can recite it for me in a month.
- If you touch that kid or that flag, or if anyone else does, you will find yourself in my office, and you will regret it.
- Have a nice day.
Racial tensions over the Mexican flag? Irrelevant. This isn’t Mexico. The U.S. flag and the Mexican flag are not and must never be of equal status in California, U.S.A. If an American flag and a student’s fondness for it creates a safety issue, then identify the students creating the threat and address the problem with them. Have the flag-waving U.S. citizen cordoned at all times by police if necessary. He is in the right; those who threaten him are in the wrong.
Students should not be taught that flying their own nation’s flag is controversial, and students who express contempt for their own flag—and if they are here, that is the Stars and Stripes—and loyalty to another are unworthy of citizenship. A student in an American school is by definition part of American culture. He can embrace another culture too, but he may not suppress the culture of where he lives. In Denair Middle School, however, unAmerican and divisive desires are respected, and Cody Alicea is told that he can’t honor his nation’s heroes.
Go ahead. Defend that.
I note that only local news outlets, conservative news media, including Fox News, and right-leaning blogs are covering this story. Why? Is this really a matter of ideology? Are there really journalists who agree with the disgraceful, offensive, Bizarro World reasoning of Parraz? Just because an episode makes Glenn Beck start foaming at the mouth doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t bother everyone.
I’m not arguing “love it or leave it,” and I’m not saying that other cultures shouldn’t be able to express their pride while living here. But schools, government entity, have an absolute duty to stand behind a patriotic student flying the flag, and not indulge any sentiment that would make that act controversial or dangerous.