A 12-year-old California honor student was forced to turn a patriotic American flag T-shirt he wore to school inside out after administrators said the shirt could be interpreted as being “gang related.”
“That design has been associated with gangs in the past, and we cannot just turn a blind eye to that,” Ramiro Carreon, assistant superintendent at Marysville Joint Unified School District reportedly told local Fox News affiliate Fox 40. Dustin Cole, who attends Yuba Gardens Intermediate school, was wearing a t-shirt that featured the grizzly bear–California’s official state animal–in an American flag pattern.
His mother, Lori Carpenter, said she had bought the t-shirt from Kohl’s because she liked its American flag design and the color schema on it. She reportedly told Fox that she understand the school is trying to keep everyone safe, but felt that the dress code violation went “too far.”
On the top right hand corner of the t-shirt, there is a red star with the number 31 in it, signifying that California was the 31st state to be admitted into the Union in 1850. School administrators reportedly said the the red star on the shirt blurred the line between free speech and safety, since the red star is often associated with the Norteño gang, which apparently has a presence in the region.
Red is the official color of the Norteño gang, and the five points on the star represent the numbers “1” and “4,” which, placed together, correspond to the 14th letter of the English alphabet, which is “N,” like the gang’s first letter. Additionally, the number 31 in the shirt’s red star is the inverse of the number 13–a number used by the Norteños’ biggest rival, the Sureño gang.