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Roger Gitlin: Saluting five young patriots

Posted: May 7, 2010 7:27 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose, needs to familiarize himself with California Education Code Section 52720.

On May 5, Rodriguez threatened to suspend five students who wore American flag/patriotic T-shirts to school. It seems the boys’ vice principal felt the display of American flag shirts was incendiary and disrespectful during the celebration of the quite unofficial holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

Apparently, some of the students at Live Oak High complained about the garb of these boys, on this arguably obscure holiday that celebrates a Mexican victory over an invading French army 148 years ago.

Perhaps Rodriguez thought that California was no longer part of the United States, and that exhibition of the red, white and blue was indeed offensive to some students.

Perhaps the boys’ vice principal thought it might provoke a physical confrontation. It matters not.

The job of an administrator is to enforce education code and teach to the California state standards. Maybe Rodriguez took his job as protector of Mexican tradition a bit too seriously.

The fact is, Cinco de Mayo is no big deal in Mexico, and is barely celebrated except in the Puebla state, and quite obviously at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.

In any event, Rodriguez’ strong-arm bully tactics did not intimidate these patriotic young men. All refused to surrender their patriotic attire, and took the rest of the afternoon off, courtesy of the Morgan Hill Unified School District.

If Rodriguez was so concerned about the possibility of student fights, perhaps he should have suspended some of the students who lacked a certain tolerance to American law and the state’s education code.

Or maybe he needs to go back to Certificated Administrator Education School. Allow me to paraphrase Section 52720: In every public secondary school, there shall be conducted daily appropriate patriotic exercises. The Pledge of Allegiance satisfies that requirement. Each school district can apply Code 52720 in a manner consistent with the education code.

There is no exclusion from Section 52720 for Cinco de Mayo, or any other country’s official holidays.

No doubt, these very patriotic students were dressed for their role as Live Oak High planned to observe this part of the education code. Rodriguez chose to ignore the code.

I am of the opinion so many of our students in California do not embrace American law and tradition, and many make poor choices in displaying disrespect and contempt for that which is American.

The American flag represents to many newly arrived immigrants, or children of illegal immigrants, a sign of authority which is to be defied and opposed under the disguise of diversity.

I am deeply offended that an administrator at a California high school is more concerned with the wishes of a few malcontents over his sworn responsibility to uphold California state education law.

As a public teacher who works for the state, I conduct a daily Pledge of Allegiance in my classroom. Though I would certainly not allow or permit the disrespect to any nation or its flag in my classroom, I would be particularly vigilant to protect, cherish and pay homage to my flag — the American flag.

Men and women far greater than me gave their lives under the American flag so that you and I can enjoy the freedom that is unique to America.

Next week, the William S. Hart Union High School District board will select a new superintendent.

I am hopeful that person will embrace education code Section 52720 in a manner befitting  the Santa Clarita Valley, and hold to the very highest standard  patriotism and citizenship commencing with a daily Pledge of Allegiance in all six Hart district high schools.

I suspect there are many in our state who think Miguel Rodriguez is some kind of hero — a champion for the disenfranchised. I am not one of those individuals. The heroes are the five young men who proudly displayed their American flag shirts in Morgan Hill on May 5, 2010.

I welcome your comments.

Roger Gitlin is a teacher and founding member of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen. He can be reached at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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