California Student Told American Flag T-Shirt is ‘Gang Related’

California flag t-shirt "gang-related" (Kohl's)

School officials forced a Northern California middle school student to turn his patriotic American flag T-shirt inside out because it was “gang related,” a violation of the dress code, and a possible safety risk.

Sacramento Fox affiliate KTXL reports that when 12-year-old Dustin Cole came home from Yuba Gardens Intermediate School last week his mother noticed that he wore his American flag T-shirt inside out.

Yuba Gardens officials told the seventh grader to turn his shirt inside out. They said he complied immediately, however, his bewildered parents believe the school went overboard on the issue.

The T-shirt displays Old Glory emblazoned to fit inside the shape of the California state symbol, the bear. Above it is a red star, which is on the state flag, and symbolizes freedom, a holdover from the state’s 1836 Lone Star flag. The number 31 written inside the star represents California as the 31st state.

Apparently, not anymore. Marysville Joint USD officials contend otherwise, saying the star symbolizes Hispanic gang iconography, specifically the Norteno gang.

“Our local gang task force, they identify colors, they identify designs, they identify all of the things that we should be aware of,” assistant superintendent at Marysville Joint Unified School District, Ramiro Carreon told KTXL.

“That design has been associated with gangs in the past, and we cannot just turn a blind eye to that.”

The 12-year-old’s mom, Lori Carpenter, called the situation “ridiculous” and an overreaction. She told KTXL: “He said he was ‘dress coded’ at school because the stars were gang related.” She added that her son is not in a gang and is an honors student who has never been in trouble at school.

Carpenter said: “I mean, they are trying to keep everybody safe. I understand, but it feels like it is a little too far. Especially when it is a patriotic shirt.”

Still, school district officials insisted that the seemingly patriotic shirt “blurs the line between freedom of speech and a safety risk.” They suggested that when parents purchase school clothing like, they look for subliminal messages as well.

In 2010, five students at a Northern California high school were told they had to turn their U.S. flag themed t-shirts inside out or be sent home on Cinco de Mayo. The patriotic symbolic wear was deemed “incendiary.”

California is not the only state where patriotic U.S. symbols have come under fire. In September, a North Texas high school suspended a teen for wearing an American flag T-shirt. This month, twin sisters faced suspension from a suburban Dallas middle for their U.S. Air Force sweatshirt logos violating dress-code size requirements. Last year, an El Paso area elementary school was the center of a months long patriotic U.S. flag mega-mural battle to paint a tribute wall red, white and blue.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.