Against the Banning of American Flags

by Robert VerBruggen

In 1969, in Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court ruled that students at public schools had a First Amendment right to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, even if other students would be offended. The Court noted that because the students were “quiet and passive” while wearing the bands, they did not impinge on the rights of others. “A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” the Court added.

Now, a federal court has ruled that a school can forbid the wearing of American flags — American flags! — on Cinco de Mayo, on the grounds that the passive wearing of such flags can cause a “substantial disruption” by causing fights between white and Hispanic students. Not only does this contradict a Supreme Court ruling in a very similar case, but the “disruption” standard itself creates a “heckler’s veto,” giving students and groups of students the ability to censor their peers by overreacting to speech they find offensive.

How about we punish kids who are enraged to the point of violence at the sight of an American flag, rather than censoring our nation’s most fundamental symbol?

This is a ridiculous ruling and should be overturned.

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